Inside the Presidential Debates

October 14, 2008

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On the eve of the third debate of the 2008 election season, Newton Minow and Craig LaMay, coauthors of Inside the Presidential Debates: Their Improbable Past and Promising Future, address the role of debates in the political process today. Minow first broached the idea of political debates on television in a 1955 memo to former Illinois governor Adlai E. Stevenson. Stevenson later called for a series of half-hour blocks of free broadcast time, on television and radio, available to the major party candidates, among others. The historic debate between presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy was held that fall at the CBS station in Chicago, WBBM-TV.
 
Paul Green, political analyst for WGN Radio and director of Roosevelt University's Institute for Politics, interviews Minow and LaMay, discussing how debates impact the political process today and what might be done to increase their value to candidates and voters. How can the Internet increase the power of the debates, and what should we look for in the October 15 presidential debate on foreign policy?
 
Newton Minow, senior counsel at Sidley and Austin LLP, has been called “the father of televised presidential debates.” As chair of the Federal Communications Commission, he coined the phrase “vast wasteland,” referring to television. He has since been chairman of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Public Broadcasting Service, and the RAND corporation; vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates; and past co-chair of the 1976 and 1980 presidential debates.


Craig LaMay is associate professor of journalism at Northwestern University, and faculty associate at Northwestern's Institute for Policy Research and Center for International and Comparative Studies.

 

Recorded Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at InterContinental Hotel.