The good news is that public interest continues to build for the election. The bad news is that ratings were so good for ABC’s pseudo debate last night that other networks will surely be willing to copy the tabloid style used last night.
The Democratic debate was watched by 10.7 million people last night. That makes it the most watched debate of the entire campaign season. The problem is that it was also the most over contrived debate of the entire year.
Except for the New York Times’ David Brooks most major media outlets have heaped tons of criticism on ABC for their poor performance. Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher had a more common reaction to ABC’s stunt.
“In perhaps the most embarrassing performance by the media in a major presidential debate in years, ABC News hosts Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolos focused mainly on trivial issues as Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama faced off in Philadelphia,” Mitchell wrote.
ABC has tried to defend their questions as relevant to the campaign, but I think they are ignoring the critics’ points. People expect things like Bosnia and “bitter” to be addressed. It is just that these topics should not take up an hour of a 90 minute debate.
It wasn’t the questions that were the problem, but the decision by the decision by the network to emphasize distraction issues at the expense of real policy. By structuring the debate, the way they did, ABC was saying that viewers don’t care about policy. They are only interested in the horserace aspect of this contest.
This was supposed to be a Pennsylvania debate, but the residents of the state, and their issues, were mostly ignored. ABC didn’t have a local presence at the debate to ask questions from residents of the host city/state. It seemed like Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolos spent all of 15 minutes preparing for this debate.
Would it have been so hard for them to spend some time getting to know the concerns of Pennsylvania’s voters? Topics like healthcare, job creation, free trade, and outsourcing were completely ignored.
I have read that some people want to circulate petitions, and Moveon.org wants to run an ad, but all of this is a waste of time and energy. As long as ratings are high, ABC won’t care what you think. There is one simple thing that you can do to hurt ABC where it hurts. Stop watching the network. When you want to watch the local news, tune in to the CBS, NBC, or Fox affiliate in your town.
Stop watching Lost, Ugly Betty, and all the other primetime programming on ABC. Remember, if you stop watching, they stop making money. This would get their attention more than a million petitions or self serving Moveon ads.
Greg Mitchell’s thoughts on the debate:
I was on the Angry Scotsman show today talking about the PA primary. You can check it out on our podcasts page: