Despite Schieffer’s Solid Performance, Debates Leave Behind Serious Questions for News Orgs


Let’s table the third presidential debate itself, and Bob Schieffer‘s even-handed performance as the moderator, and get back to a question I’ve raised before.

Why would any news organization want their talent to be associated with moderating a presidential debate, given the polarized political climate and likelihood the journalist will be accused of putting his or her thumb on the scales?

After all the excoriation of Jim Lehrer following the first debate, reviews were generally favorable for ABC’s Martha Raddatz, though some conservatives accused her of favoring Vice President Joe Biden, which most argued (accurately) merely meant the Democrat fared much better.

CNN’s Candy Crowley, for her part, got drawn into the conversation by fact-checking GOP candidate Mitt Romney in mid-debate.

Schieffer managed to stay above the fray, mostly, though I don’t think it’s an accident the debates skipped over front-line anchors during this cycle. And frankly, I can’t see any percentage in having a Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer or Scott Pelley brave this particular arena.

Here’s a thought: Have top anchors preside over the debates, strictly as referees and time-keepers, and let a trio of print journalists ask the questions. Because having a single moderator simply places too much pressure on that particular personality and news organization.

Granted, the print scribes will get the same grief. But given the current state of the news biz, they could at least use the attention.

Barring that, as I suggested before, they ought to toss out the whole issue of moderators and hire hockey referees. They’re well-versed in the part of rigidly regulating time during a heated contest, and a lot of them currently have extra time on their hands.

Of course, some of them are Canadian, but no one’s perfect, eh?



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