Making legislative races into must-see TV

Aug 14, 2012

The Providence Journal remains the best-staffed local news organization when it comes to covering the Statehouse. But there’s nothing quite like subjecting lawmakers (and their would-be successors) to tough questions and the unblinking eye of a TV camera.

That’s why WPRI-TV (Channel 12) is providing a real public service with its ongoing series of legislative debates on Newsmakers – like the one that aired this past weekend between state Representative Peter Petrarca and Democratic primary challenger Gregory Costantino.

If you’re an everyday person, the results are eye-opening.  

If you’re a political junkie, this is riveting theater.

If you’re a voter, this will inform you.

I have a longstanding association with Newsmakers, so take my view with a grain of salt if you’re so inclined. But the show is putting the lie to a common notion among television consultants: that viewers aren’t interested in politics or political news.

People care about the air they breathe, the roads they drive on, the schools attended by their kids, and how their tax dollars are spent; that’s all part and parcel of politics.

So kudos to Newsmakers’ host Tim White for organizing debates on a key series of legislative primary races in the run up to Tuesday, September 11. Senate Finance chairman Daniel DaPonte and challenger Roberto DaSilva were featured earlier this month.

Plans call for more matchups in the weeks to come.