ERIC Number: ED226379
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1980
Reference Count: 0
The Panelists as Pseudo-Debaters: An Evaluation of the Questions and the Questioners in the Major Debates of 1980.
McCall, Jeffrey M.
Journalists play a central role in U.S. presidential debates, but their exact role is unclear. Unlike the news conference or interview, the situation of a debate does not favor an adversarial role because journalists who assume this role tend to shift attention away from the main issues and reduce exchanges between the candidates. To insure true debate, journalists must pose well-defined questions that set the discussion agenda, focus on a point of opposition, and clearly imply a debate resolution. With this idea in mind, the panelists' efforts in the two 1980 debates between Ronald Reagan and John Anderson and between Ronald Reagan and President Jimmy Carter can be examined in terms of seven criteria: (1) brevity, (2) single question, (3) continuity in follow-up questions, (4) focus on an area of disagreement between the candidates, (5) freedom from bias, (6) tone of goodwill rather than hostility, and (7) call for explanation and justification of significant policies. Results of this examination revealed that there were significant weaknesses in both of the 1980 debates, but that the panel for the Reagan-Carter debate performed much better than the panel for the earlier debate between Reagan and Anderson. The success of this later panel resulted from its ability to remove itself from the center stage, thereby allowing more exchanges between the candidates. (JL)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Presidential Campaigns; Presidential Debates; Press Role