Media must cover debates responsibly

The media has a duty not to sensationalize presidential debates.

by Melanie Williams

Debates have been a long-standing, integral part of the election process in this country. These forums are meant to give candidates a chance to share their views on important issues âÄî issues that voters care about. However, since most eligible voters will never make it to a live debate, we have to rely on media coverage and analysis to accurately relay debate content and candidate performance.

The media has failed in this regard because of its sensational reporting that takes the emphasis away from important issues.

Heading into the 2012 primary, conservative candidates have been lining up and arguing their positions across the country. If you donâÄôt have time to watch an entire debate, youâÄôll likely turn to analytical segments on your favorite news channel or read sparse coverage in the newspaper.

With this in mind, itâÄôs the duty of the press to cover the important aspects of each debate. CandidatesâÄô responses to hot-button questions? Important. Rick Perry forgetting the third government agency that heâÄôd like to abolish? Probably important.

What Michele Bachmann was wearing or whether her makeup made her eyes look wider? This is certainly not important unless you can prove a correlation between mascara and national security. The fact that Herman CainâÄôs tax plan is the same as the tax system of Sim City? Funny, perhaps good blogging material, but not something I need to read about in multiple major newspapers.

IâÄôm not a Republican, but having noticed the same trend during the 2008 Democratic primary, IâÄôm concerned about this type of coverage. We should be focused on the issues up for debate, not debating whether BachmannâÄôs skirt is an issue.

IâÄôm never going to base my vote on a candidateâÄôs fashion choices or on the content of video games, and the media shouldnâÄôt spend so much of their time pushing sensational content that doesnâÄôt promote responsible, informed voting.


Melanie Williams welcomes comments at [email protected].