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MU Political Communication Institute provides assistance with organizing local debates and political forums

Political Communication Institute develops ‘Engaging Your Community: A guide to hosting local debates and forums’

September 20th, 2018

Story Contact: Jeff Sossamon, 573-882-3346,

COLUMBIA, Mo. – With less than 50 days to the 2018 election, candidates in state and local districts are using digital, broadcast and print media to get their messages to potential voters. Although advertising plays an important role, for many voters during the election cycle, it’s the face-to-face interactions that clinch their vote.

The Political Communication Institute at the University of Missouri has developed a “how-to” guide to hosting debates and issue forums at the local level. This guide, Engaging Your Community: A guide to hosting local debates and forums, provides insights on the main questions and issues related to organizing and planning these events.

“The health of our democracy depends on an active and informed communication process in which citizens from all walks of life engage in constructive, meaningful dialogue,” said Mitchell McKinney, professor of communication and director of the PCI. “Political debates and public issue forums are events that facilitate active communication and engage citizens in the civic process, but these events may seem daunting to organize.”

To aid citizens and civic organizations in their efforts to organize events around topics of importance to the citizens of their communities, the PCI has developed the guide, which focuses on developing a budget, recruiting volunteers, publicizing the debate or forum, and tips for involving local media.

“Whether you are a local civic organization that would like to host a candidate debate or community group that would like to organize a town hall issue forum, we hope this guide will serve as a useful starting point for your own event preparation,” McKinney said. “The information provided in this document is not an exhaustive list and the requirements for any given debate or forum will vary based on situation, circumstances and goals. However, this guide will discuss the essential elements of event planning for the sponsoring organization that seeks to host a campaign debate between candidates for elective office or sponsor a public forum on issues of importance and interest to your local community.”

The guide can be found at the Political Communication Institute website here. The PCI is housed in the Department of Communication in the MU College of Arts and Science.