Art Callaham: Local show joins debate

August 04, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

What shapes your opinion? Now that’s a question that many have asked me. Do I opine based on a one- or two-minute media bite by local or national news anchors, commentators or talking heads? Or are my opinions based on some 300-word letter to the editor or a favored newspaper columnist’s latest prose about an issue? How about an “in-depth” feature article or the endless myriad studies, reports and “fact-based” articles that outline either side (or the hundred sides) of issues — do these shape my opinion?

Well, sure, all of those different noises have had an effect on one or more of my columns. However, to tell you the truth, simple conversation with people I respect — I didn’t say just people I like — has, through the years, had the greatest impact on my opinion about most issues.

You see, today, truth and fact are not everything they used to be. Case in point, one of my favorite truths is that charter home rule brings local governance closer to the people. I continue to believe that is true. But, if local people don’t get involved with the actions of governing, if local people are not informed about issues and situations, is charter home rule a better form of government? Whoa, kemosabe! There’s a lot of truth in that question, too.

Respectful discussion and debate often brings clarity to even the gnarliest issue. Open debate and discussion lead to informed conclusions and decisions. Those conclusions and decisions might, or might not, be the “right” ones. However, conclusions and decisions made based upon informed input and open discussion sprinkled with common sense are usually the best.

Beginning with a Thursday premiere, a new television show, “The Flipside,” will contribute to the debate and hopefully to the decision making.

“The Flipside” is a collaborative effort between Antietam Cable Television’s Washington County Living Channel 30 and Smart TV, a company that I co-own. (Antietam Cable is a sister company of Herald-Mail Media.)

I am a producer on the prerecorded show, which will air on WCL Channel 30 on Antietam Cable each Thursday and Friday evening at 7 p.m. and will be shown again Saturday and Sunday afternoons. The format for the show is a four-person roundtable panel of local folks, discussing and debating local, state and national issues. The hook is: How do these issues affect us here in Washington County?

Yes, local folks, real people will be on the panel; folks such as former state delegates Bruce Poole and Paul Muldowney — these men have been there, done that and are still active in state and local issues. How about former Miss Washington County Carrie Aaron, who will bring a youthful and informed opinion to issues like speed cameras, fire tax and the cost of medical care. Rounding out the cast of panel members are Elizabeth Paul, the chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Central Committee; community advocates such as Dave Hanlin, Chuck Spitzer, Toni Sandridge, Dr. Brenna Bacon-Ranieli, Ed Lough and Heather Guessford; Herald-Mail columnist Tim Rowland; and former Hagerstown mayor Bob Bruchey.

Will the “The Flipside” panel always be “right”? Of course not, sometimes the panel might lean “left,” but panel members will always give you their opinions concerning issues based upon their personal knowledge, experience and common-sense judgment. The goal is to inform, entertain and cut through the spin.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.

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