WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Journalism and Presidential Debates

Feb 16, 2016

Many presidential debates have been held during this election cycle and no doubt there are many more to come.  But do they provide any value, and does the post-debate reporting inform voters?

Shop Talk panelist Rich Egger finds little value in the debates and the coverage of them.  He feels the reporting focuses too much on who won and who lost rather than the policies and issues that were discussed. 

Panelist Jonathan Ahl thinks the debates have value, but agreed too much of the news coverage focuses on zingers and flubs. Ahl said the good post-debate reporting includes stories that fact check what was said during the forums. 

Ahl also believes the Republican Party debates are getting more substantive as the campaign progresses and the field is narrowed.

Panelist Emily Boyer said the debates give reporters a chance to ask questions of the candidates that they might otherwise not get to ask. 

Boyer also believes the debates help level the playing field a bit – for example, early debates in the Democratic Party campaign helped Bernie Sanders garner more attention than he might have otherwise received.