Saturday, April 19, 2008

Promotional Exercise

Ezra Klein:
But the problem isn't only ABC. The incentives for the moderators in all of these debates have been, at best, ambiguous, and often times, perverse. Who, for instance, is the audience? Is it the great mass of people who will watch it live? Is it program directors for cable news shows who will be watching the debate for controversial clips that can be used on the next evening's newscast? Is it other journalists who want to see the candidates answer tricky questions they've not yet been asked? The answer changes the questions you asks. Journalists, for instance, are tired of debates about mandates and withdrawal plans. They want to break new ground. Lots of viewers, however, haven't heard of mandates and have no idea how Obama and Clinton's withdrawal plans differ. They want a pretty basic debate that retreads ground that's been well covered during this campaign. The cable news directors, however, aren't going to base a show around a dull policy disquisition that doesn't say anything new.


The candidates shouldn't be tricked into attending a debate meant for viewers that's really aimed at creating highlight reels for Hardball, and the viewers shouldn't have to waste time watching a debate that should answer their questions but instead seeks out flashpoints of controversy. There's nothing wrong with ABC inviting Obama and Clinton to a controversy hour. But tricking Obama, Clinton, and all of us into participating in their promotional exercise is pretty low.

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