MPT airs long session with 28 candidates 'Voters Ask': The final episode of this year's series begins at 11 a.m. today.

On the Air

February 25, 1996|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

What happens when you get 28 politicians and would-be politicians together on one television program, all of them wanting the same thing -- to be the next congressional representative from Maryland's 7th District?

You pray, says Susan Jacobson, producer of MPT's "Voters Ask '96 (Primary)." You pray that everything goes right.

"The logistics of it were unbelievable," says Ms. Jacobson, who has been pulling together these shows for 11 years. "I can't believe we pulled it off."

vTC You can judge for yourself how well she pulled it off beginning at 11 a.m. today, when MPT airs the concluding episode of this year's eight-part "Voters Ask" series. Look on it as public TV's best effort at helping District 7 voters make an informed choice from the record number of men and women -- 27 Democrats and five Republicans -- scrambling to represent them in Congress.

But be forewarned: If you plan to watch the whole thing, have the coffee brewing and send out for lunch. Although the final editing had yet to be completed late last week, Ms. Jacobson says she expects the end result to clock in at just under three hours.

Thank goodness four candidates never showed up. With them, the program may have stretched into prime time.

"We've never had a thing like this before," says Ms. Jacobson. "The 7th District alone took us a whole taping day. The other seven districts took us two days total."

The show's format is pretty simple: Each candidate is introduced in a 45-second taped spot, then each is questioned separately by one of the hosts, Jeff Salkin and Debbie Wright.

That sounds pretty simple, and in your average election it would be. But remember: With 28 candidates, the introductions alone will take 21 minutes.

With all those folks and all those egos, you would expect Ms. Jacobson to feel more like a ringmaster than a producer. Some of them must have acted like real prima donnas, right? Do all these candidates really expect to be taken seriously?

Like a true nonpartisan, she refuses to take the bait, insisting there are no war stories to tell.

was really impressed with most of the candidates in the 7th," she says diplomatically.

All of them? Well

"Some of them," she allows. "I don't understand why they run, because they don't have very active campaigns, and they have unlisted phone numbers. It's like, 'Hello, what's going on here?' "

Two candidates, she says, simply could never be found. Neither Medgar L. Reid nor Shelton Stewart, both Democrats, ever responded to any of MPT's phone calls, registered letters or other efforts to contact them. Democrat Mark J. Einstein was unable to fit an appearance into his schedule. Gregory Truitt, another Democrat, said he'd be there but never showed.

"It was real obvious whose campaign had money and whose didn't," Ms. Jacobson adds. "You could look at the campaign paraphernalia they had, the sort of cars they pulled up in."

Of course, after doing this for more than a decade, she has her favorites. Like perennial candidate Monroe Cornish, who recently recovered from a stroke and had to walk several miles to MPT's studios from the Owings Mills subway stop.

"My heart just broke when I watched this man go physically so downhill," she says. "He looked weak to me. Seeing him again sort of marked the passage of time, it really did."

City schools

Got something to say about the state of Baltimore's schools? Think the privately run Tesseract schools didn't get a fair shake? Wish the state would butt out and let the city take care of its own? Or should the city just admit defeat and start over from scratch?

Here's your chance to let the top guy know what you think, as School Superintendent Dr. Walter Amprey visits "The "Marc Steiner Show" at 1 p.m. tomorrow on WJHU-FM (88.1).

Not that you have to call in. You might just want to sit and listen as the fireworks go off.

Holistic talk

Holistic talk radio has come to Baltimore.

"Kelly & Company," a two-hour weekly program devoted to the "holistic approach to problems of the mind, body and spirit," debuted at 1 a.m. this morning on WCBM-AM (680).

On future shows, host Kelly Gill Benson will be joined by experts in the fields of medicine, psychology, spirituality, astrology and vocational counseling.

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