By Hiroko Sato
GROTON -- Jack Petropoulos knows those who engage in online debates about local hot topics often focus too much on making passionate speeches and too little on facts.
In the ongoing public discussions on Kinder Morgan's natural gas pipeline project alone, the selectman said he has seen misinformation perpetuated as debates heat up. Such debates typically take place on a community online message board called Talk about Groton, which is managed by Art Campbell, publisher of online publication, The Groton Line.
While discussing how to best deal with these problems recently, Petropoulos and some fellow Groton residents brainstormed a solution: Having experts exchange their opinions and take questions live on TV.
Call it "Talk on Main Street," Petropoulos said. Set to be broadcast live both on the local cable, Groton Channel, and on the Internet, the show will feature a panel of experts in each segment that will take questions from the studio audience as well as via online with Jason Kauppi, Town Moderator, serving as the debate moderator. Petropoulos and Campbell will be producers it while David Melpignano, a film producer from Groton, will direct.
The first show will focus on the pipeline project proposed by Kinder Morgan's subsidiary Tennessee Gas Pipeline and will take place on Tuesday, July 22, at 7 p.m. at the Black Box Theater inside Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.
Answering questions will be panelists Dennis Eklof, an expert on global energy forecasting and a consultant, and James O'Reilly, director of public policy for Lexington-based Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. Both Eklof and O'Reilly are Groton residents. They will review a range of issues, possibly including current and future demands for natural gas, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's permitting process and Kinder Morgan's survey activity.
Petropoulos said he has seen wrong information being circulated on various aspects of the project, from pipeline safety to the definition of a so-called transmission tariff. He hopes the show will help dispel misunderstandings that may exist on these issues.
Petropoulos said the show will take up many other issues facing the town in the future, such as weed control in local water bodies and the school budget. Kauppi, a former journalist-turned-public-relations-consultant, said topics may also include regional ones down the road.
"Informed citizenry is a vital part of democracy," Kauppi said.
Kauppi said panelists will get to exchange their views thoroughly in the show that would last 60 to 90 minutes. He would also challenge them to further explain information when necessary.
"It's more like a talk show than town meeting," Kauppi said.
The show will also be live-streamed online at http://ustre.am/1fDa0. The show can be viewed on Verizon channel 40 and Charter channel 12.