RNews, the Time-Warner cable news outlet in Rochester, will broadcast a debate between the two candidates for the 29th seat at 7 p.m. tonight. The debate will also be re-broadcast on Time-Warner's On Demand system, which is channel 108 in Rochester.
I don't have Time-Warner cable, so I won't be watching the debate.
Thanks to Exile from The Albany Project for live blogging, and to all the readers who commented. It was fun, and I hope we can do it again.
Tonight's 13-WHAM debate was far better than last night's WXXI debate in NY-26. Moderators allowed the candidates to answer at length, there was some direct exchange between the two candidates, and the questions were pretty good. Sean Carroll and Don Alhart did a standout job.
Readers who missed the debate can watch a stream at 13-WHAM.
I'll publish a link when it's posted. The debate video has been posted at the 13-WHAM video page.
Sean Carroll, the moderator of tonight's 13-WHAM debate, has posted six more questions for the campaigns to answer this weekend.
Following up on my earlier post on the low quality of debates, here's a bipartisan group launched today who are asking for better debates: The Open Debate Coalition
The first Massa/Kuhl debate is at 9 tonight on 13-WHAM.
We'll be live-blogging starting a little before 9 p.m. tonight.
Howard Owens has a post at the Batavian about last night's debate in NY-26. I only sat through half of that debate, but I agree with his conclusion that voters didn't learn much from it.
In anticipation of tonight's debate in the 29th, let's drill in on one of Howard's points: "to be fair, the format sucked".
After watching the first Presidential debate, and comparing it to the other two, I've come to realize how much format matters. The first Presidential debate was much better than the second (or the Vice-Presidential debate) because it allowed the moderator to ask followups and, most importantly, it let the candidates go at each other during those followups. To accomodate that format, each issue took 5-10 minutes of debate time instead of the usual 4 or 5.
Traditional debates like last night's, which had a one-minute response and a 45-second followup, are much easier to game than the long-answer debate. If a politician can spit out 60 seconds of talking points, followed by 45 more seconds of evasive rebuttal, they can easily turn any "debate" into a series of short speeches. It's much harder to spit out canned bullshit when you have to talk about a topic for 5-10 minutes and answer your opponent repeatedly.
The long-form debate also keeps politicians on topic, since they can answer their opponent's charges directly. This is what really kills the traditional debate. Politicians almost always add a rebuttal of the last question to the next question, which just increases confusion.
National media amplifies the bullshit quotient at traditional debates by looking for a "winner" and fixating on "gaffes". Most media pundits watch debates like hockey fans waiting for a fight, or NASCAR fans waiting for a crash. The longer debate doesn't eliminate this tendency, but the short debate feeds it, because each politician is pressured for time and is more prone to try for cute comebacks rather than real analysis.
I know a lot of people who aren't very interested in politics, yet they take time from their schedules to watch debates. Campaigns put huge effort into them. Yet, the end product of so much effort and expense is almost always a low-information, tedious affair.
I believe local media sincerely wants to do better, but they're already operating at a handicap when then copy the terrible, time-limited, non-debate "debate" format that was pioneered back in the 70's.
Just as folks threw away their Earth Shoes and disco albums, we need to trash the Ford/Carter-style debate and use a lengthier, more meaningful format.
Tomorrow night we'll be doing something new - collaborative live blogging. Around 9 p.m., Exile from the Albany Project will join me in commenting on the 13-WHAM debate.
We'll be using some new software that allows everyone to comment in real-time. It's more like IM or a chatroom, so it should be pretty interactive. If you're watching the debate and near a computer, stop in and participate.
13-WHAM's Sean Carroll says that Friday's Massa-Kuhl debate will be broadcast at 9 p.m. on Rochester's channel 13. This will be the first non-cable Rochester-area debate for the two candidates.
Susan Multer of the League of Women Voters is quoted in the Star-Gazette:
"It's a sad day for democracy when elected officials are unwilling to
participate in local candidate forums," Multer said. "It shows great
disrespect for the public for a congressman to take five months and a
state senator to take six weeks to tell the sponsoring organization
that they will not participate and give no reason."
Update: WETM also has a debate story.