It's really something to watch the mainstream media in our fair state close ranks around the mainstream candidates in the Mass. gubernatorial race. On Tuesday, Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein was contacted by a consortium of nine major local media organizations and (to quote her press release) "invited to participate in two major televised debates, providing she met certain criteria including raising $100,000 in campaign funds and achieving at least a 5 percent score in election polls." I would have to agree with Stein that the media outlets in question are setting the bar for entry to the debates too high to easily allow qualified third-party candidates to participate.
I would also agree with her campaign position on the matter, “All candidates that have qualified for the ballot under the election laws of the Commonwealth should be invited to participate in debates that use the public airways. We also think that fair treatment of all candidates is to be expected from the media corporations that are taking advantage of the privileges our society accords to journalistic enterprises. Those privileges are based on an assumption that journalists will contribute to the free and open dialogue that is essential to a healthy democracy. Journalists should refuse to be parties to any attempt to restrict the flow of information that voters need and deserve.”
This seems like a no-brainer from this corner. Stein definitely appears to have qualified for the ballot - having delivered 12,000 certified signatures (2,000 more than required) to state election authorities in advance of their August 3rd deadline. That means she has a statistically significant number of supporters. Plus the Green-Rainbow party has gotten more than one percent of the vote on a number of occasions in statewide races, and even had official party status for a few years after Stein's run for the Governor's seat in 2002 got them over 3 percent of the vote. They are hardly newcomers on the Mass. political scene. And even if they were, they've proved they're a significant enough force to get on the ballot, and that should be enough to satisfy the local mainstream media. Who, last time I checked, are not a branch of government - and shouldn't be able to veto participation in debates for a major government office.
It would be nice if the other candidates backed her up, but that's probably not going to happen. Regardless, the major media should do the right thing for Stein's supporters, potential supporters who are far less likely to hear her progressive views if she's not allowed to participate in the televised debates, and democracy ... and let Jill Stein debate!
Open Media Boston highly recommends that our viewers call and email the Globe, Herald, and major TV and radio outlets, and push for Stein on this one. Whether you agree with her politics or not. It's just the right thing to do.
Update: The Green-Rainbow Party has confirmed that the following media outlets are members of the consortium running the debates in question - the Boston Globe, WCVB-TV (Channel 5), WHDH-TV (Channel 7), WGBH-TV (Channel 2), New England Cable News (NECN), WBUR-FM, WTTK-FM, WBZ-AM, and Gatehouse Media.
Jason Pramas is Editor/Publisher of Open Media Boston