The first presidential debate of the 2012 election season is still generating hashtags and hits on social media sites across the Internet, from criticisms of moderator Jim Lehrer to quips from fact-checking machines.
Poynter Institute contributor Tracie Powell said she thinks social media played a huge role in the aftermath of this debate. She said viewers are simultaneously using Internet-enabled devices to Tweet while watching a live event on TV, like the Superbowl.
“Whereas with the Superbowl, people are making their comments and reading other people’s comments,” she said. “With the debate, people actually went to Twitter to find out the truth about what the candidates were saying on that stage.”
Powell said fact-checking was the most important media development as the debates raged on live from Denver.
“The debates are important because they’re supposed to give the American public an opportunity to see the candidates challenged on some of the things they say, some of the assertions they make,” she said. “They’re supposed to give us the opportunity to see the candidates square off against one another so to speak. So in that respect, I think the debates still do serve an important purpose.”
However, some pundits and social media users criticized Lehrer for a poor job done as moderator. Powell said the candidates ate up his time to ask questions and prod the candidates more after their responses.
“He didn’t get to cover all of his topics,” she said. “They were only supposed to have two minutes to respond to questions and they were supposed to have discussions moderated by Mr. Leherer, that didn’t happen in the time allotted. And I know there was a lot of controversy over how he moderated the debate.”
She said while some argued there wasn’t enough diversity between the three moderators, event organizers do select moderators who perform selflessly and without showmanship.
“Most importantly, they want someone who doesn’t have an ego, someone who won’t become the news, someone with the understanding that the candidates and the American public are the focus, not them as the moderator,” she said.
Kelly Price edited this story online.