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Debate In A Can 

Dole and Bowles under wraps

The October 19 Dole-Bowles debate was the way it ought to be: broadcast live, with an audience in attendance that supplied some of the questions. Two moderators wrangled the candidates, and Liddy and Erskine stood at podiums, but were free to walk about via wireless mikes. Enough said.My gripe is with the first debate. The strange "stealth conference" was brokered, planned and pre-taped by Eastern North Carolina's two largest commercial stations, WRAL and WTVD. News reporters and managers on this side of the state were less than happy about the arrangements, though loathe to criticize them on the record. TV stations had an obligation to viewers to show it, but many wondered what deals were made and what was promised to the campaigns to make the program happen.

The way it went down, the location and even the format was kept secret from the media by other media (huh?). No reporters would be allowed at this "debate." After taping, WTVD and WRAL fed it via satellite to stations around the state.

So what did voters get for all this secrecy? We got a "debate in a can," where Liddy and Erskine were shielded from public or press scrutiny, those bothersome things one of them will face on Capitol Hill.

We saw an amateurish set-up with poor lighting, a "format" that felt more like an interview, and two people barely visible in the dark room behind the WTVD and WRAL anchormen asking the candidates questions.

Thanks heavens for the October 19 debate, but here's also hoping that next time, North Carolina broadcasters will work together to guarantee a live, open forum for voters to see on the public airwaves.

And politicians wonder why the process disgusts voters? We deserve better from candidates and broadcasters.

Picking up where Fox Sports South began with regional sports coverage, WFNZ's Mark Packer and Charlotte-based television marketer/producer Mike Burg are developing a syndicated TV sports show to begin in 2003.With a working title of "Southern Fried Sports," Burg tells me the format will take its cue from newer sports programs such as "The Best Damn Sports Show, Period," and it will target North and South Carolina sports fans.

"There's a real niche out there for regional programming," Burg says, "and we think no one is really hitting regional sports."

The plan is to have Packer host, along with appearances by father Billy Packer, and other "cast members" from the sports world. They're talking with sponsors now, have sold it to nine markets, and plan to produce it out of Charlotte and air it on weekends.

The Charlotte Observer has hired a music journalist with an impressive resume as its E&T entertainment editor. Mark Kemp, a former editor at Rolling Stone and MTV, has been in Charlotte about six weeks.Putting my ancient jealousy of anyone who worked for Rolling Stone aside, I asked him the obvious question: what in hell is he doing in Charlotte?

The answers are not so obvious. Despite living in New York for years, it turns out Kemp is an Asheboro native and an ECU grad, and he's working on a book.

"It's a book about Southern culture from desegregation until now, told through music. I started to come down here to do research, and I stayed with my folks. After September 11, it made sense to come down here full time, and I started to look for a job. It's cool to come back to work on a newspaper."

At MTV, he was in on the development stages of "TRL," "the teen pop hit," Kemp says. He went on to develop VH1 docs and programs. Here's hoping he'll overhaul what passes for music writing at the O these days, and we'll see some of his work, as well.

WPEG's "Breakfast Brothas" is among the top 50 favorite morning radio shows chosen by Blackapolis.com, a website with information and city sites catering to minority professionals. . .Lest we forget, WFNZ's Gary Williams was accidentally omitted from last outing's list of the "Morning Sports Page" team that was renewed for new contracts at the sports station. . .JP Sports game producer Scott Snyder is the latest Charlotte-based sportsie to head to New Orleans to work for its "new" NBA team. The entire Charlotte TV and radio broadcasting team will continue to do Hornets games, with the exception of Mike Gminksi, who chose to stay in the QC. 65 Hornets games will run on cable only for Cox Communications.Stay tuned... Shannon.Reichley@cln.com

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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