The Herald Tries To Bigfoot Joyce Kulhawik

Late to the game, the paper schedules a mayoral debate during the Create the Vote forum.

The Herald has had about five months to plan for the upcoming mayoral preliminary election, but waited until today, exactly four weeks from the day, to announce a mayoral debate. Unsurprisingly, the date they’ve chosen—Monday, September 9—has already been claimed for another event. The Herald and its partner Suffolk University apparently expect everyone to blow off the long-planned “Create the Vote” Mayoral Candidate Forum on Arts, Culture, and Creativity, in favor of theirs, which will be televised on NECN.

In fact, according to correspondence from the Herald shared with me by campaign staff, the 9th is the second clumsy attempt to schedule a debate at this late stage in the game.

On August 19, the Herald made its first contact with campaigns about the event, sending a formal invitation on specially created letterhead, for the candidates to participate in a debate on Tuesday, August September 10.[Corrected]

That didn’t work out too well; that’s the night of the NAACP mayoral forum. I will leave to others to interpret the fact that the sophisticated organizations of the Herald, Suffolk University, and NECN failed to identify this conflict with the city’s pre-eminent organization for black residents.

Within 24 hours, the Herald contacted the campaigns, acknowledging the conflict, and implicitly conceding that candidates were not going to choose the Herald over the entire African-American population. “Will Monday, September 9 from 7 – 8:30 pm work?” the Herald asked; “Or are there any other open, weekday evenings before the primary?”

August 20 is not the time to start looking for open weekday evenings before the September 24 preliminary; unless they were willing to schedule on a Jewish holiday, the Herald was clearly going to have to go up against another, long-planned forum. The only question was which one.

Create the Vote got the shaft. Nevermind that the rather substantial MassCreative coalition had been planning it for months; had held a kickoff event for it back in early July; had snagged local legend Joyce Kulhawik to moderate; had promoted it extensively; had started doing candidate interviews and other activities to lead up to the forum; and had the commitments of seven candidates—including John Connolly, Charlotte Golar Richie, and Marty Walsh.

Those committed candidates are now in a bad position. Do they blow off the broad arts and culture community by reneging on their commitment, or blow off a televised event sponsored by a major daily paper?

One top campaign staffer tells me there is some talk of the candidates signing a joint letter to the Herald asking them to work with them to find a solution—perhaps by doing it in the afternoon, or a little later in the evening. Stay tuned.