As the wider public is aware (unless they’ve taken refuge under a rock or someplace similar), the first round of Presidential debates took place last night.
President Obama and Governor Mitt Romney spoke at the University of Denver. Spoke… and spoke… and spoke…
…and, at several instances, refused to stop. While Romney came off with a “win” over Obama, the real loser (as ABC News so correctly quips) was Jim Lehrer, the debate moderator.
Lehrer, who got his Bachelor’s in Journalism from Mizzou in 1956 (see his full profile here), was meant to keep the debate moving with 15-minute segments on six different topics. By the time the final segment rolled around, there were only 3 minutes left.
Numerous analyses of the candidates’ answers has been conducted (NPR’s “Five Takeaways” is a personal favorite), but I couldn’t help but be distracted by the way both candidates – Romney in particular – stepped continually on Lehrer’s toes.
As journalists, how can we serve as the watchdogs of power when we can’t get power to shut its mouth?
Heres’s the (somewhat obvious) solution as I see it: ask more pointed questions, demand answers, and command the candidates’ respect and attention.
It will be interesting to see what cues the remaining moderators take from Lehrer’s lackluster performance.