July 13, 2010

MPTs plan to put candidate interviews online offends U.S. Senate hopeful

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By Megan Poinski
Megan@MarylandReporter.com

Maryland Public Television execs thought they would be doing a public service by recording interviews with candidates for statewide office and placing those interviews on their website – but at least one candidate feels insulted by the gesture.

Blaine Taylor, a Democrat who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski in the primary, wrote a scathing response to an e-mail from MPT inviting him to participate in the interviews. Taylor’s response to the e-mail was, quite literally, “Go to hell.”

“I think it’s foolish, outrageous and insulting,” Taylor said in an interview with MarylandReporter.com. Taylor, who has run for Congress in the past, said he will definitely not be participating.

In past years, MPT has done televised debates for some of the statewide offices, said Larry Unger, the station’s executive vice president and chief operating officer. This year, taking advantage of the capabilities of the Internet, the station plans to conduct short personal interviews with candidates for statewide and congressional offices. The video from the interviews will be posted on MPT’s website.

Unger said he heard about other media outlets posting interviews on their websites and thought it was “a terrific idea.”

“We always want to do what is better for the community,” Unger said. “People don’t want to sit through a program and watch interviews with all of the candidates. That would take a really long time. This way, they can do what they want, and all of the interviews will be available to them. It’s a key convenience for our viewers.”

Taylor doesn’t see it that way. Maryland Public Television receives some state taxpayer funding, so he said that it should be doing a public service by broadcasting the interviews on television. Taylor said he wasn’t concerned about the number of voters who might access the interviews on the web versus broadcast on television. It’s just the principle of the thing.

“The two key words are public broadcasting,” he said. “You paid for it, I paid for it, all taxpayers paid for it. It’s what they should be doing.”

So far, Unger said that Taylor is the only candidate who has opposed the online interviews. Invitations to participate in the interviews were sent out to 48 candidates last week, and most of the reaction has been positive, Unger said. So far, seven or eight candidates have already secured their interview times.

“He has a difference of opinion, but I think, in the long run, he will be the minority,” Unger said.