News: The first “experiment” is over. Today, we have time to reflect on what happened — and didn’t happen — in last night’s presidential debate for the Democratic candidates. As I said in my last post, I give CNN and YouTube an A for the idea of user-generated questions, but a C+ for the execution. Here’s what CNN messed up (although the Democratic Party and candidates may have been responsible for the format):
1. There was no opportunity for real debate or exchanges among candidates. The candidates had only 1 minute or 30 seconds to answer questions. No substantive question was asked of each of the candidates–meaning we never got the chance to compare all the candidates on a single question, even though many of the YouTube users posed their questions specifically to the entire group of candidates. For a 2 hour debate, that’s pretty appalling.
CNN, however, chose not to allow all the candidates a chance to answer. Sen. Dodd even expressed frustration at not having a chance to answer the important question about global warming. The only question that CNN posed to the entire group of candidates was the stupid last question in which the candidates were asked to say something they liked about the candidate on their left, and then something they didn’t like. Are we back in 1st grade?
2. Anderson Cooper played favorites with the candidates and skipped over Senator Gravel. Sen. Mike Gravel protested not getting asked many questions compared to the other candidates repeatedly during the debate. By my count, Gravel got only 9 questions (often trivial ones), while Barack Obama got 19 questions. Don’t even include the guy on stage if you are not really going to include him in the debate.
3. CNN excluded all questions from children, but then included a question from a snowman. Cooper said that he thought the parents were using their children to ask their questions. So what? The guy who used the snowman got on CNN’s debate. Remember, from the mouth of babes.
4. CNN used only 11 questions from female questioners, but 28 questions from male questioners. OK, I don’t know the relative breakdown in the pool of 3,000 questions. But the disparity in questions between male and females was very noticeable to me.
5. Having follow up with 2 of the questioners live in the audience only wasted time. This really didn’t work. Anderson Cooper asked, “Did they answer your question?” One of the guys basically said he couldn’t hear the answer because someone next to him was making noise. The other guy used his follow up to say that he wanted to have the question asked of Hillary Clinton.
6. CNN chose some pretty gimmicky questions for laughs and even wasted more time showing questions not used for more laughs. CNN wasted precious time on videos shown to generate laughs–a snowman asking a question, a guy singing and asking for a pardon on his parking ticket, two country guys asking if the talk about Al Gore running for president hurt their feelings, the last question asking each candidate to say something good and bad about the person to the left. There probably were more, but you get the picture.
7. The 30-second campaign videos were nice, but took time away from the debate. I liked the campaign videos, but just have people go to YouTube to watch them. CNN shouldn’t take away precious time from the debate.