Monday, August 20, 2012

Journos Fight Over Hosting Dull Events

Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent ...Bob Schieffer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)It's much less amusing, and the backstage gossip is less juicy than the Leno-Conan-Letterman dust-up over who would handle Tonight Show hosting duties, but the moderator picks by the Commission on Presidential Debates ("CPD") last week set off a battle royale among snubbed journalists just the same.

Mainstream was the byword of the CPD choices of CBS' Bob Schieffer, PBS' Jim Lehrer and CNN's Candy Crowley to host the presidential gabfests and ABC's Martha Raddatz to handle the vice-presidential debate. Fox News was shut out because of negative signals from the Obama camp, so we'll have to look elsewhere for comic relief.  Likewise, the Romney camp made faces regarding the possibility of tapping MSNBC talent, and the CPD skirted selecting from among Big 3 network anchors Brian Williams, Diane Sawyer and Scott Pelley to avoid ruffling the feathers of whichever 2 would have been bypassed, according to accounts in The New York Times and's TV Newser blog.

Although Crowley is the first woman to moderate a presidential debate in two decades, the CPD selections elicited lack-of-diversity brickbats from the National Association of Black Journalists and Spanish language broadcaster Univision. Also grumbling, with justification, is PBS' Gwen Ifil, a "fresher face" than Lehrer, who anticipated helming a presidential debate, having previously moderated a vice-presidential debate.

The CPD is introducing a new debate format that is broken down into six 15-minute blocks during which candidates are allotted two minutes apiece to respond to questions. The four moderators selected are all credible, though the expertise of Raddatz, a former reporter in "TUOL"'s stomping ground of Boston, is in Pentagon goings-on and foreign affairs, whereas the November election is decidedly focused on domestic issues.

If the debates were truly debates instead of affairs in which candidates spew well-rehearsed talking points buoyed by a pep rally audience while press members lie in the weeds waiting for what they can afterward declare a "gaffe" by one of the candidates, the moderator kerfuffle might actually mean something.  The staff of "TUOL" would rather see tag-team moderating by Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher versus Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, so at least there would be some entertainment value to the ponderous events.

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