"Inside Washington County with Rob Solomon" aims to inform others
If you tune into KUIK or KBOO, then there might be a familiar voice to greet you on the other side.
Rob Solomon is best known for his previous role as president of the Washington County Public Affairs Forum. But he has taken on a new challenge to promote civic engagement. After Solomon's term as president of the forum ended in June 2019, he approached KUIK with an idea for a radio segment.
He then found a producer and recorded the first three episodes of "Inside Washington County with Rob Solomon." The interview series is designed to bring Washington County residents the information they need to engage with issues in their community.
"I'm not trying to get them to vote a certain way," said Solomon, who hosts the show. "I'm trying to get people to vote, engage in politics and on (other) issues."
The show features service providers, community leaders and advocates. Alongside his producer Rick Paulson, Solomon interviews government officials, politicians, and other program and activity leaders in the community.
Once KUIK jumped on board last September, Solomon pitched the series to KBOO two months later. That's when the Solomon and Paulson duo started recording the series as a podcast.
"We started off wanting to expose some of the cities in Washington County," recalled Solomon. "We invited some of the newly elected mayors … (because) people don't know them very well. We wanted to talk about their cities and some of their issues."
The show also prioritizes important elections in the community. Most recently, it informed viewers about the sheriff's race along with two county commission races.
"It genuinely upsets me every election when I see how many people don't vote," said Solomon.
He added, "It concerns me when I see how many people have their minds made up on a lack of knowledge. … If I can help people to get their message out, then I have a chance to have folks get an education that's more appropriate."
As for the coronavirus pandemic, Solomon said the virus has thrown his team a curveball. The show is usually recorded inside of a conference room at the Brookwood Public Library in Hillsboro.
With the library shut down and concerned for older guests, Solomon and Paulson decided to put in-person interviews on hold and try something different.
Solomon was planning to hold a candidate debate prior to the spread of COVID-19 in Washington County. Instead of abandoning that idea, he's come up with a way to move forward by getting creative.
"We put out questions for each debate on the web with a particular code so no candidate could see the other candidates' answers," he explained. "So, I will ask the questions, and (on air) I will answer the questions as all candidates."
He hopes the inflection in his voice doesn't sway voters in one direction or another.
It can also be difficult to moderate a debate when some candidates write more than others.
"We can tell somebody in a debate when two minutes is up," Solomon said, "but it's hard to tell somebody when they're writing their answers that they're writing a little too much. And this has been an education for both our producer and me."
The team tries to record in advance starting in September through mid-June, but the virus will end their series early at the end of May.
"We're a little disappointed," said Solomon. "We had two more shows that we wanted to tape, but we're respecting the rules."
The 30-minute segments are also put together with the help of Shawna Muckle, the newest member of the team. Muckle is currently a senior at Jesuit High School and chief editor of her school's newspaper.
Solomon remembers Muckle emailing the team asking if they needed an intern. Since January, Muckle has been providing research and outlines for Solomon and Paulson to review.
"She's excellent," said Solomon. "She's gonna be something when she gets out of college — I'm not sure what, but whatever she wants."
He hopes other people seek out opportunities to become more informed just like Muckle.
"Our goal is to have people understand what's going on around them as well as they can so that they can make educated (and) informed choices," Solomon added.
The team plans on recording more segments next August, if the COVID-19 outbreak allows them to do so.
"Inside Washington County with Rob Solomon" can be heard on KUIK, KBOO, Spotify, Blubrry, Stitcher and Google Play.
For more information, visit insidewashco.org.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.