Sunday, September 30, 2012

Debunking the Debates -- How CNN creates buzz where there wasn't

Keara Vickers

In all of the coverage in the lead-up to the first presidential debate, the media has ignored one very important fact -- debates are usually incredibly boring.

The truth of the matter is that on October 3rd, two professional politicians will go head-to-head on pre-screened prompts, trading rehearsed barbs and parrying with so-off-the-cuff-they’re-practied jokes. Tense? Not quite.

From CNN Election Center
That isn’t evident if you’re looking at CNN’s pre-debate coverage, though. There’s been a slow ramp-up that is reaching a fever pitch in these few short days before the 3rd.

Even Mitt Romney’s staff is trying to pull down the expectations for Wednesday’s showdown in a campaign memo released last Thursday. The memo doesn’t try to sugar coat Romney’s inexperience in presidential debates and his lackluster abilities in firing up a crowd. CNN passed up the opportunity to take the memo and run with it, but instead chose to merely call out the highlights and pass over. 

It isn’t a secret that President Obama is one of the most gifted speakers to occupy the Oval Office and Romney’s campaign knows it's coming in at a disadvantage. The media pressure has turned the debates into “make it or break it” events -- and with Romney’s track record of gaffs, you can imagine his handlers are biting their nails already. 

If I were at all a strategic communicator, I would assume this memo was expected to grab media attention and turn the conversation toward the events to be discussed and away from President Obama’s verbal firepower. CNN didn’t play the game.

From CNN
In non-debate news, I spent a truly astounding amount of time procrastinating by playing out extensive election-night scenarios on CNN’s interactive electoral map. If you ever doubted the power of the tiniest swing states, this little map will completely change your view. 

To summarize though, the real point of a televised presidential debate is to make somebody look foolish without losing too much ground yourself. 

Barring any October surprises, the combination of hype and public relations wrangling will most likely leave viewers with a debate lacking in oomph. I’ll suggest getting your violent political fix with some of this footage from a fight on the floor the 2008 Ukrainian parliament. Now those are debates with some punch.

No comments: