Mike the Mad Biologist

CNN Scripts ‘Audience’ Questions at Debate

How can a CNN debate be considered news when questions supposedly asked by the audience are actually scripted? Isn’t that lying as opposed to news? CNN, at a recent Democratic debate, according to one questioner, screened and scripted every ‘audience’ question (italics mine):

Maria Luisa, the UNLV student who asked Hillary Clinton whether she preferred “diamonds or pearls” at last night’s debate wrote on her MySpace page this morning that CNN forced her to ask the frilly question instead of a pre-approved query about the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository.

“Every single question asked during the debate by the audience had to be approved by CNN,” Luisa writes. “I was asked to submit questions including “lighthearted/fun” questions. I submitted more than five questions on issues important to me. I did a policy memo on Yucca Mountain a year ago and was the finalist for the Truman Scholarship. For sure, I thought I would get to ask the Yucca question that was APPROVED by CNN days in advance.”

…Writes Luisa:

“CNN ran out of time and used me to “close” the debate with the pearls/diamonds question. Seconds later this girl comes up to me and says, “you gave our school a bad reputation.’ Well, I had to explain to her that every question from the audience was pre-planned and censored. That’s what the media does. See, the media chose what they wanted, not what the people or audience really wanted. That’s politics; that’s reality. So, if you want to read about real issues important to America–and the whole world, I suggest you pick up a copy of the Economist or the New York Times or some other independent source. If you want me to explain to you how the media works, I am more than happy to do so. But do not judge me or my integrity based on that question.”

Maybe the producers of the debate (the idea that a political debate should have ‘producers’ is galling, but let’s continue) thought that the audience would ask questions poorly. It is hard to give good TV without some coaching and training. This is why commercial news organizations should not be sponsoring debates: the goal of a political debate is not to produce a TV show that resembles a debate, but to ask the candidates relevant and probing questions so citizens can be better informed. Ratings should not enter into the equation.

But bloggers use dirty words….

At least they’re ours.

Comments

  1. #1 Brandon
    November 17, 2007

    Just out of curiosity, is there any proof that this actually happened? All we have to go on is this girl’s testimony.

    Either way, it’s not something I would put past CNN.

  2. #2 PhysioProf
    November 17, 2007

    “the idea that a political debate should have ‘producers’ is galling”

    I agree completely with your analysis, except for this statement. Any complex event needs a “producer”, especially one that is broadcast on TV. For something like a political debate, a producer should not, however, involve herself in the content of the debate, only in its form.

  3. #3 Mr. Gunn
    November 18, 2007

    um, no. She according to CNN, the girl submitted a list of questions, including that one. Because her first question was already asked, she was asked to ask a different one. Since they were closing and they wanted a quick, light question, they suggested that one. She wrote it, and she was asked it she wanted to ask the one she did, and she said yes.

    There’s nothing scripted or forced about that.

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