KROL, NICHOLS BRING A GAME TO RIVETING TV DEBATE … DISAGREEMENTS SHARP, SOLUTIONS TO CITY’s WOES DIFFER … VIEWERS, VOTERS WELL-SERVED IN THE EXCHANGE
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, OCT. 24, 2013) — Coming off an extremely long day yesterday, THE PLANET dares to post some initial thoughts regarding last night’s Ward 6 debate between incumbent John Krol and challenger Joe Nichols. Yours Truly moderated from the PCTV studios live from 7 to 8 p.m. Terry Kinnas served as producer, and this website sponsored an enlightening and informative exchange.
As an aside, we share something you probably don’t know. When an outside entity such as PLANET VALENTI DOT COM sponsors a political debate on PCTV, it goes to the government channel. TV requires that the sponsor obtain a producer, who must be an elected official (state rep, councilor, school board member, mayor, even congressman). That’s why Kinnas produced. Needing this sign off, he was the first official THE PLANET asked. He agreed. Also as a side note, while we were setting this up, Krol and THE PLANET both agreed that, while Krol could sign off as producer, it would be inappropriate. To his credit, Krol brought this matter up himself. THE PLANET wasn’t intending to ask him, but it made it wasy to have that quickly out of the way
The debate was unusual in several aspects. First, after the usual speed bumps in nailing down the arrangements, the event came together flawlessly. We credit Kinnas and particularly PCTV’s Dave Cachet at PCTV for the lion’s share of that. We also credit Krol and Nichols, who showed up on time with their A games. Second, we used “The Valenti Format,” which invariably brings out the passion inherent in any campaign, especially in a race where both candidates are savvy, experienced, and bear little love for each other. Krol and Nichols sat in chairs, separated only by a small table. There were no notes. As moderator, we had a wireless mic and moved about a bit. This tends to rivet the candidates’ focus more on the question, and we have found over the years that this technique produces better answers. Third, there was relatively little dodging of our questions. Fourth, we had a live studio audience composed of our ENG. Comp 1 students, who were there covering the proceedings as part of a class assignment. That added to the adrenaline. Fifth, unlike in so many of the “cookie-cutter” debates you have seen, viewers last night actually learned something about the candidates and their contrasting approaches to solving the many problems facing the city of Pittsfield. The format made that possible. Podiums and desks — anything which comes between the candidate and the audience — are deadly.
Who “won” the debate? The viewers. Afterward, Krol’s people naturally said he won. Nichols’ camp gave it to their guy. We are writing too soon after the event (full disclosure: We are writing this at 9:45-10:15 p.m. last night. Yes, we used the time machine again, the one we borrowed from Rod Taylor [does anyone outside of our fevered brain get the reference?]). Moderating on a live TV broadcast requires awareness of the cameras, a duty not needed on radio. It can only be done successfully if one “zones in,” focusing only on the questions and answers from that insular and “blocked out” perspective. This produces an irony: the moderator is often the one person who doesn’t have a handle on “who won?” That can only come from viewers.
Each guy had good moments and bad. Nichols appeared to us as the more relaxed. THE PLANET received an e-mail last night that confirmed this sense. Our correspondent wrote, “The candidates did well, but Krol gives me anxiety because he seems ready to battle you. Nichols did better than I thought he would, and he wasn’t rude toward you at all.”
Krol comes off as the more studied and “urban” of the two. Nichols resonates with more “connectivity” to the common touch. Krol has more polish and is more the policy wonk, with Nichols more home-spun in his approach to policy. Both styles have their advantages and disadvantages.
What THE PLANET liked most about this debate is how we covered a full range of issues. When we say “covered,” we mean it. Interestingly, Krol and Nichols agreed for the most part agreed on the ward’s and the city’s pressing needs (jobs, education, downtown, and the like) but they disagreed sharply on how to approach, respond to, and solve the city’s problems. If you have the chance to catch the replay on PCTV, you’ll see what we mean.Viewers were able to get a clear separation between the two. That’s why we say they were the winners.
The candidates bumped heads at the outset. We asked Krol about the letter-to-the-editor in the Boring Broadsheet from former mayor Paul Brindle, who claimed he called Krol three times about a traffic light problem in the ward and never got a response. Krol admitted not getting back to Brindle but said, bottom line, he got the light problem solved. Nichols used that as his opening to share what he says he’s hearing repeatedly on the campaign trail: that Krol does not maintain good constituent communication. Naturally, Krol disagreed.
On and on we went, talking about jobs, taxes, schools, the downtown, PEDA, issues particular to the west side, and other matters. As the debate went into its second half-hour, the candidates seemed to shift more from the head in favor of the heart. Several times, we were more than happy to step back and let them wrestle. The jousting resulted in several electric and enlightening exchanges. It wasn’t talking heads screaming at each other. It was an honest, frank, set of exchanges. Nichols had the night’s best moment when he transitioned from an issue into a vital reminder for all of us: The People own the government. The people ARE the government.
By the time we wrapped up, we felt certain that viewers came away with a much greater knowledge of the differences between these two men. They have opposite philosophies of government. To use those detestable political labels, we could say Krol is more a let-government-do-it liberal and Nichols, in a relative sense, a more let-people-alone conservative (in Pittsfield, “conservatism” can only be understood in a comparative sense). As we say, we hate those labels.
Krol cuts an almost perfect figure visually. The camera “loves” him more than Nichols. Whether that’s an advantage or not, we don’t know. We do know that both men came prepared, and both weren’t afraid to let the viewers know who they are. As we said earlier, they came with their A games.
Enough for now. More will be forthcoming, we are sure.
“C’mon kiddies. I’m ready to fight. I’ve been looking for my baby tonight, and if I get her in my sights, boom boom, out go the lights.’” — Dan Dilly.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.