Debate host rehired by Anchorate public TV

Posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The host of a political debate program on Anchorage public television station KAKM will be returning to a newly revamped show.

Rhonda McBride had resigned from the program, ''Running,'' earlier this month after being removed as host. McBride said it was pressure from Republican leaders and state Senator Dave Donley that led station management to remove her as host.

Station manager Paul Stankavich said it was a disagreement with the direction of the program that led to McBride's removal.

The station has since appointed a news director, Dale Harrison, and will resume broadcast of ''Running'' next month under a new format, with a panel of journalists -- including McBride -- asking questions of the candidates.

McBride was rehired with no strings attached, she said. She was confident the journalists would be amply protected from pressure from politicians made uneasy by their questions.

''I feel more comfortable that with Dale Harrison as producer, there's a proper ethical firewall between management and the journalists,'' she said.

McBride said she favored questioning of candidates by a panel of reporters. The panel approach, which was part of the show's early history, also protects the participants, McBride said, because a single reporter doing all the questioning is too easy a target. A group of reporters will provide a diversity of perspective while avoiding the appearance of an imbalance.

Harrison said he would try to recruit journalists representing a variety of perspectives on state issues.

The controversy involving McBride arose over her questioning last month of Sen. Dave Donley and other GOP candidates for broadcast before the Aug. 27 primary.

After the interview, Donley told McBride she editorialized and asked a stupid question, she said. He complained to the station the following day.

Donley told the Daily News earlier this month that McBride had used ''inappropriate terminology, implied erroneous facts'' and failed to give him a chance to talk about issues he felt voters were really interested in.

Randy Ruedrich, state GOP chair, said McBride treated Democrats invitingly but was ''confrontational'' with Republicans.

Donley could not be reached Tuesday. Ruedrich said he never asked that McBride be asked to leave and only wanted a more balanced show.

''I think this is a fairly acceptable outcome, to say the least,'' Ruedrich said Tuesday.

Stankavich said Tuesday that he had asked McBride in an e-mail last week if she was interested in coming back, then left it to Harrison, who is also a news and public affairs director for the Alaska Public Radio Network, to make the decision.

''The whole reason Dale was brought on was to put in place a structure so KAKM could proceed,'' Stankavich said. ''I'm happy he's doing the job.''

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