Media Matters Action Network: Change the Debate
Out of all of the “action alerts” that I get in my email inbox (and there are a lot of them), none get me as worked up as Media Matters‘ updates on the latest stupidities perpetrated by the U.S. media.
Now they’re giving us a chance to try to destupify the upcoming presidential debates.
In case you couldn’t bear to watch them at the time, here is some information from Media Matters on the primary debates.
Overall, 32 percent of the questions asked in debates were non-substantive, i.e. they concerned campaign gaffes, political tactics, or issues of personality.
Only 9 percent of the questions concerned the economy. There were only six questions about the mortgage meltdown that touched off the current economic crisis.
As the primary campaign progressed, the debates became less and less substantive. By the primary campaign’s final period, non-substantive questions outnumbered substantive questions.
The debates hosted by PBS and Univision were the most substantive, with 100 percent and 82 percent substantive questions respectively. Fox and ABC hosted the least substantive debates; fewer than half the questions in each of those networks’ debates were substantive.
The front-running candidates in both parties were more likely to be asked questions focused on trivia, while the candidates trailing badly in the polls were more likely to be asked substantive questions. For example, 73 percent of the questions posed to Dennis Kucinich were substantive, while only 51 percent of the questions given to Barack Obama were substantive, and only 59 percent of the questions for John McCain were substantive.
Of those who moderated more than one debate, Maria Elena Salinas and Jorge Ramos of Univision asked the most substantive questions (88 percent and 73 percent, respectively). George Stephanopoulos of ABC (39 percent) and Chris Wallace of Fox (33 percent) asked the fewest substantive questions.
Twenty-one percent of the questions did not even touch on a policy issue.