Panel Knocks Debate Formats
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 02:10
Journalists and politicos criticized the structure and substance of the 2012 presidential debates at a panel in Lohrfink Auditorium Friday night.
The event, called “Presidential Debates: Performance, Spin and the Press,” was sponsored by the Georgetown University Lecture Fund, Georgetown University College Democrats and Georgetown University College Republicans.
Robert Siegel, senior host of National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” moderated the panel, which featured Bloomberg News editor Al Hunt, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker and NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd.
The panel was hosted by the News Literacy Project, a national program that seeks to educate middle and high school students to think critically and synthesize information in the digital age.
Alan C. Miller, president and CEO of the News Literacy Project, delivered the opening remarks and explained the organization’s purpose.
“Our ultimate goal is to educate students in politics and media studies … in an age where they are being bombarded by information from all sides,” Miller said.
Siegel first presented clips from the two presidential debates and compared them to the media’s coverage of the events.
The panelists then pointed out how social media’s tendency to sensationalize has influenced political campaigns.
“When you say something like ‘binders full of women,’ something is going to happen,” Parker said, referring to Romney’s comment during the debate last Tuesday. “[But what] concerns me is that it forces the media to pay attention to something that is a joke.”
Todd said that the debate format is too focused on time.
“The goal was to get rid of the clock. … It is the campaigns that renegotiated everything, even the temperature,” Todd said. “They negotiated that the candidates couldn’t question each other directly.”
“The irony of television debates is that they have never been won on substance,” he said.
The panelists ended their discussion by taking questions from students.
Students who attended the event were impressed with the high turnout on a Friday night.
“I think it is great that many students attend speaker events, even on a weekend night. I love that students are so interested,” Charlotte Cherry (SFS ’16) said. “I think that the speakers acknowledged the good questions and really interacted with the students.”