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Laura Kessel is managing editor of The News-Herald in Willoughby. She writes a weekly column and shares her thoughts here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Friends prove it's easy to pay attention in the new living room

This column appears in the Oct. 13, 2012, edition of The News-Herald:

Ever notice that it’s nearly impossible to have a discussion when the TV is on?

At least it is for me. Almost every time the television is on at our house.

I need to share some information with my husband, but his eyes and mind are glued to the TV.
Sometimes it’s a game, or a sci-fi show, or even a commercial with a pretty girl.

No matter what it is, though, I’m not able to break through that barrier. That is, until I do it physically.

Yes, I simply walk in front of the TV and stand there until he looks up to yell at me to move.
Once I have his attention, I get to share my information.

I win!

I thought about this strategy over the past two weeks when we’ve hosted some area residents in our new living room to watch the debates.

About a month ago, we opened our Community Media Lab to the public as a resource to share our archives. It’s especially exciting if you’re into area history, whether for your own enjoyment or searching for family information or because you want to research something in your hometown.

As part of the Media Lab, we also opened an area with couches and chairs facing a 42-inch television affixed to the wall.

When we asked folks to come in to watch the debates with us, I realized I wouldn’t be able to just step in front of the TV if they weren’t paying attention.

You see, the TV hangs about 15 feet off the floor.

I’m a shrimp, reaching 5-foot-4 on a tall day, so I’d have to hop up on the counter below it to get anywhere near the screen. More than likely, I’d still have to jump up and down to try to wave in front of the screen.

Luckily I didn’t have to resort to such unladylike methods.

No, those in the two groups that gathered to watch the first debates of the 2012 presidential race were eager to get the discussion under way.

The first debate, on Oct. 3 between Republican Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, featured a group of volunteers who answered a plea on our editorial page in which we asked area residents if they’d like to watch the debate here and discuss it afterward with one of our reporters.

Six people stepped up and took part.

The second one, which was Thursday night, featured Vice President Joe Biden and Republican Paul Ryan. Those here watching in our living room were party officials from Lake and Geauga counties.
The crowds were as different as you could imagine.

The first group were older folks, retirees concerned about how many of the issues at the heart of the presidential race will affect them.

The second group, young political insiders who lead the Young Republicans and Young Democrats both in the counties and at Lakeland Community College, spoke more about the styles of the participants and how they felt they helped or hindered their running mates during a somewhat testy debate.

The discussions were lively, with both sides pointing out aspects they considered key to their candidate’s victory. But that’s not important, because the only one who counts is the one who emerges after all the ballots are counted.

Until then, I’ll just enjoy the fact that it was such a pleasure to sit here with our guests and watch the issues dissected.

I’m impressed they stepped forward, stayed out so late and were so eager to share their opinions.
If you ever get the chance to view a debate from different perspectives, make sure you jump.

It’s worth every second and every yawn the following day.
Twitter: @Lauranh


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