PORTLAND – WGME-TV will host a town hall-style forum at its studios in Portland from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday on the issue of gun control. The event will be broadcast live over the Internet, with members of the audience asking questions of a four-person panel.
The forum will be moderated by Mark Hyman, a new commentator for WGME’s parent company, Sinclair Broadcast Group, and host of “Behind the Headlines.” He has moderated 20 similar forums in cities across the country on a variety of topics.
The four panelists, picked locally by WGME, include two from each side of the issue: Jeff Weinstein of the Maine Gun Owners Association, Stavros Mendros of the Maine Gun Rights Coalition, state Sen. Anne Haskell, D-Portland, and Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck.
Hyman said that as moderator, he has tried not to ask any questions himself, drawing instead from audience members, who often have personal stories and passion for the issues. Audience members can also ask questions through social media, using www.facebook.com/wgme13 and on Twitter using the hashtag #YourVoiceYourFuture.
“Sometimes you get people from the public who think of questions that we had never considered,” Hyman said.
Hyman, who leans conservative and admits he is “opinionated,” said his job as moderator isn’t to take sides but to keep questions coming and keep things moving.
Hyman will be on Channel 13′s Facebook account to interact with audience members at 10 a.m. Thursday to start gathering questions.
Members of the public may also apply in advance at www.wgme.com to be in the live audience and ask questions.
“The public feels like they don’t have a voice in their government anymore — federal, state and local,” Hyman said. “We thought we would give our public the opportunity where they put the questions to their community leaders.
“The cable channels use the same talking heads over and over again. So what we said is, we want people who are local and can talk about the local issue,” he said.
Hyman said the topics for each forum tend to be locally driven. He previously moderated a forum on illegal immigration in San Antonio, Texas, where 60 members of the audience were themselves in the country illegally.
He moderated another in south Florida, with its large elderly population, on Medicare.
“They’re political issues. They’re personal,” he said.
At previous forums on gun control, he said, audience members have included a survivor of the Virginia Tech mass shooting, the families of murder victims and one man who avoided becoming a serial killer’s ninth victim by shooting the killer.
“The topic of gun rights is among the most personal,” he said.
Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at: