Oh no, a blog post from Christopher about politics? Relax, this is about the media… I’m just going to use the most recent GOP Presidential Debate as a case-in-point.
CBS News made a big blunder by hiding a key rule of the debate; people who were tanking in the polls, were going to be given less time on center stage. Ron Paul only got 89 seconds to speak. Michelle Bachman didn’t do much better. The top three candidates (at this point) all got the most speaking time; Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Herman Cain.
Now, if CBS had been open about these rules, at least with the candidates, and best with the public… this would not have been a bad thing, in my opinion. Granted, 89 seconds for Ron Paul was an understatement. But, it’s certainly not something I would consider underhanded… there are several candidates in the Republican race right now, and some are able to maintain a national presence simply by traveling from one debate to the next.
Where CBS stepped in it, was by keeping quiet.
To the candidates, it immediately smacks of bias. To the viewers, it leaves unanswered questions. In both camps, animosity now is directly aimed at CBS.
Would it have been a good idea for CBS to announce this at the debate? No, but a blog post would have been a sufficient way to burn-off the format shift. It would have addressed concerns from the outset, rather than have to handle the fire in hindsight.
Was there a cover-up of this? No, I don’t think so. I think CBS was making a conscious decision that they realized was best for the debate, but wouldn’t be best to publicize without facing some backlash. Now, the backlash for having unspoken rules is larger than what the backlash for the hidden rule would have been, in the first place.
At the end of the day, will this blow over? Probably, CBS won’t be running any other debates.
If I were running CBS News right now though, I’d make up for the offset by highlighting each candidate during the CBS Evening News, and extend the profile to compensate for the difference in time. Wait, that’s how the new media would handle something, so I can be certain it won’t happen over at CBS. Oh well, that’s what I get for trying to make everyone happy.