The Washington Post

Can journos really be trusted to moderate debates?

Gingrich, ever the visionary, broke out anti-journo-debate-moderator crusade a few weeks before supporting data arrived. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

“As your nominee, I will not accept debates in the fall in which the reporters are the moderators,” he said, “because you don’t need to have a second Obama person in the debate.”

The declaration was met with a classic Gingrichian amount of attention-cum-derision.

Well, too bad Gingrich didn’t have this data pool to plunge into. The Guardian and NYU have put together a database of debate questions, something that the 2012 media-political commentariat has needed ever since the debate tally reached the teens. The findings would have helped Gingrich advance his Quixoticism.

Easily the most shameful revelation: The fourth-largest question category is “Strategy and maneuvering among the candidates.” One-hundred and thirteen questions in that basket, one of them being:

Let’s talk about probably the most important issue to everybody on this stage, and probably just about everybody in this room, which is, who can beat President Barack Obama in this next election? In today’s new CNN/ORC poll, 41% of Republican voters think that Governor Romney has the best chance of beating the president. To Senator Santorum, you got one percent. Why shouldn’t Republican voters go with the candidate they feel that can best beat President Obama? (Oct. 18, 2011)

Room for improvement, journo-moderators.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.


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