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Public Media's Civic Imperative

Public Media’s Civic Imperative

WGBH News Senate Primary Debate
Representative Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) (far left) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) (center left) square off in the first senate primary debate hosted by WGBH News and moderated by Margery Egan (right) and Jim Braude (center right) at WGBH Studios.
Meredith Nierman/WGBH News

By JONATHAN ABBOTT
President & CEO, WGBH Educational Foundation

Earlier this week, WGBH News hosted the first 2020 U.S. Senate Primary Debate between U.S Senator Edward Markey and his Democratic challenger U.S. Representative Joseph Kennedy III. The hour-long debate, from the WGBH Studios in Brighton, was moderated by Boston Public Radio hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagan and offered the candidates a forum for civil, civic discussion on issues ranging from affordable housing, climate change to health care and gun control.

But this event went beyond providing a media forum for the two candidates; it was also about community and inclusion. Before the debate began, constituents lined up in the rain outside our studio to show support for their candidate, many of them holding a sign for the first time. And inside the studio, an audience representing the broad diversity of Massachusetts across age, ethnicity and geography had an opportunity to be, to quote the musical Hamilton, in “the room where it happens.”

Among them were members of the Brighton High School debate team and Debate en Español who had never had the opportunity to witness this kind of event. Their coach, Ramon Trinidad told us afterward, “As a result of the experience, I can tell you that our students will feel that much closer to realizing that they themselves have the power and ability to shape their own future… they may not be ready to decide who they would vote for if they had the opportunity, but they may be considering running for office one day if they get the chance.”

We’re continuing to help the next generation prepare to become informed voters with a Media Literacy Day on February 27 at the WGBH studio at the Boston Public Library (BPL). In partnership with Generation Citizen, an organization that works to ensure that every student in the United States receives an effective civics education, we will host 30 eighth graders from Boston Latin Academy all day to discuss media literacy. This is an unprecedented effort to engage students in a day of activities focused on finding truth in the media. I couldn’t be more excited about this initiative, using our BPL space in the heart of the city to bring together young people for civic education.

In this election year, WGBH is proud to be an active part of the largest news operation in the country--public media’s journalists, 4,000 strong— poised to cover every county in the nation.

From our local reporting teams across the Commonwealth, to our national programs such as FRONTLINE and American Experience, to our education and events teams and our extensive public media archives, we remain focused on providing the public with the resources and civic opportunities that they need to participate as fully informed citizens.

Although the Senate debate was broadcast on our TV, radio, digital and social media platforms, reaching hundreds of thousands of citizens across the Commonwealth and beyond, you still have the opportunity to watch the debate here if you missed it.