A silent moderating struggle behind the screen

It was Oct. 16 at 5:30 p.m. when I sat in front of my laptop.

In 30 minutes MCCC would be hosting a Q&A forum for some community candidate positions over Zoom. Meanwhile, the rest of the moderator team and I would be working through Teams.

It had been months since I had last touched a video conferencing app. Was everything working correctly? Was my camera on? How silly did I look in a headset as I listened to the forum?

As 6pm rolled around I had to push these worries to the side and enter the calls.

During this Q&A, I would be collecting any questions the viewers had. These questions would be sent directly to me, and I would relay these questions to Dan Wood, assistant professor of Criminal Justice, so that we could formulate them into single questions for the candidates.

This was my first time helping out in any online event, let alone one of local political significance. I took some deep breaths and prepared my screen as MCCC President Kojo Quartey finished his opening and the Q&A began.

(Illustration by Kaida Allen)

The forum began without a hitch. Technical difficulties were minimal, and the sudden rush of questions I had expected were absent.

Perhaps I had overreacted. I took that as a good sign.

For the first half of the forums I scrawled in a notebook, keeping an open ear for the main points of every candidate on every subject.

Not only did this help pass the time-questions didn’t appear until nearly an hour in-but it would also give me a good impression of who I could expect on November’s ballot. I planned to look up all these candidates later and educate myself further on the topics they had discussed.

However, my note taking was cut short when, in the Zoom chat, a new message appeared; my first question.

I dropped the notebook and dragged my mouse over the viewers’ query.

Ctrl C, Ctrl V.

The question was sent privately to Wood in an instant. I was told we would hold onto this until we had gathered more, but my eagerness had spiked.


My single-monitor device was still cluttered with text boxes, Word documents, and video calls. But I felt like a great stone guardian, placed to answer the calls of the public and relay them to those beyond.

This feeling didn’t last long.

After one question came another. Then another. And another still. Overall there were few but each viewer was asking something different to totally different candidates.

I tried organizing them as they were sent to Wood. The Zoom chat looked like a mess with all my personal messages clogging up the questions, but it worked for now.

The questions continued to pile into the chat. A slow drip, drip, drip of questions that weathered away my façade as a mediator.

I worried I had bitten off more than I could chew. Should I have agreed to this? What if I miss a bunch of questions? Not only would I be letting MCCC down but the entire viewing community.

Some of the viewers began to argue in the Zoom chat. No name calling or direct rudeness, but now I had to observe this phenomenon on top of the questions.

Taking notes on the candidates was out of the picture by now. There’s no way I’d remember what most of them had said beyond my first question.

As my panic began to build, I heard a silver lining: The Q&A forum was ending.

I was in relief. I had made it through as a question collector. Looking back, the event wasn’t as chaotic as it felt in the moment. Had I come in with more  experience, or at least taught myself how to conduct my duties on the Zoom call, I may have had less of an internal panic.

Next time, I should really test my wax wings before flying headfirst into the sun.