Formats Recommended For Presidential Debates p.12

By: Debra Gersh Hernandez Criteria for moderators favor TV journalists over print sp.

THE COMMISSION ON Presidential Debates has recommended three formats for the 1996 presidential and vice presidential debates, as well as the criteria for candidate inclusion.
The CPD has suggested three 90-minute presidential and one vice presidential debate to be held each Wednesday between Sept. 25 and Oct. 16, 1996. The vice presidential debate would be on Oct. 9.
The three presidential debates, covering foreign and domestic issues, would include one with candidates behind the traditional podium; one in a town hall format that was very popular with voters in 1992; and the third, which also will be used for the vice presidential debate, in a more informal, conversational setting, with the candidates and moderator seated.
Only one moderator will be employed for each debate, with no utilization of the traditional panel of questioners.
The ABC, CBS and NBC news anchors likely would not be chosen as moderators, according to CPD co-chair Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., since the commission would prefer someone who would not compete with the candidates. A "nonthreatening, nonegocentric" person would "be the traffic cop we think is necessary."
CPD co-chair Paul G. Kirk Jr. noted that "there is a star quality to the anchors. In our view, that's not necessary. People want information from a discussion between the candidates. That star quality could be viewed as an intrusion."
Focus groups around the nation, convened after the 1992 debates, indicated that one problem with the panel format was that it did not always allow for follow-up questions, Fahrenkopf explained.
With a single moderator, the discussion can be "more fluid" and the participants can "go with a natural follow-up," he said during a Washington press conference announcing the debate recommendations.
Kirk explained that a contender for moderator would be someone with experience in political and current events and who is capable of dealing with the camera and the earpiece, a "certain skill and professional adeptness" for television.
That does not necessarily preclude print journalists from acting as moderators, Fahrenkopf said, since there are those with television experience.
Nevertheless, moderators will not be named until late in the process, possibly even between debates, Kirk noted.
Network television veteran Robert Asman has been named executive producer of the debates.
Ten sites, all on college campuses, have been narrowed down from the initial 40 that submitted proposals, and a selection of the four finalists will be made in late January or early February.
The commission also released its criteria for candidate participation in the debates. The candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties automatically will be included.
The commission's "nonpartisan criteria" is designed to identify nonmajor party candidates who may have a realistic chance of being elected, according to the guidelines.
Candidates must show evidence of national organization, signs of national newsworthiness and competitiveness and indications of national enthusiasm or concern.
Among the indicators of national organization are: meeting the constitutional requirements to become president; being on the ballot in enough states to have a mathematical chance for a majority in the electoral college; showing in those states an organization in a majority of congressional districts; and eligibility for matching funds or other ability to fund a campaign, as well as endorsements from federal and state officeholders.
To show newsworthiness and competitiveness, the commission will seek the opinions of news bureau chiefs in Washington, as well as those of professional campaign managers and pollsters and political scientists specializing in elections. In addition, CPD will measure column inches on newspaper front pages and exposure on network television, in comparison with the major-party candidates, as well as considering the published views of political commentators.
Finally, to measure national public enthusiasm or concern, the commission will consider the findings of public opinion polls by national polling and news organizations, and the reported attendance at meetings and rallies across the country, in comparison with the major-party candidates.
Information regarding the debates ? both current and historic data ? can be accessed through the CPD's home page on the Internet. The address is
The CPD also is planning a voter education project called "DebateWatch '96," which is designed to bring people together to watch the debates and discuss them at schools, libraries, auditoriums and other forums.
Kirk explained that a contender for moderator would be someone with experience in political and current events and who is capable of dealing with the camera and the earpiece . . . .


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