Is This the End For Televised Debates?


A troika of major political websites--Yahoo News, Slate, and the Huffington Post--announced yesterday that they will jointly sponsor a pair of online presidential debates for the Democratic and Republican nominees. PBS host Charlie Rose will moderate.

In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Yahoo's news and information services chief, Scott Moore, wasted no time comparing this innovation to how television transformed the presidential debates in the 1960 election, when a more sprightly, attractive John F. Kennedy took advantage of the media in his debates with Richard M. Nixon.

But as we have previously written here, the real penetration of the Internet remains unproved, despite the legions of evangelists for the "Netroots" movement. High-speed Internet connection adoption is still low in many rural areas, and, though it is growing quickly, the medium is still far less widespread than television. (TVs outnumbered humans in the United States in the latest Nielsen study.)

New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner, who has served in that capacity since 1976, tells us that, at least in his first-of-the nation primary state, he's not ready to christen the Internet Age just yet. To win New Hampshire, he says, you have to still have to show up in New Hampshire every chance you get.

Case in point: In 2000, "John McCain came into the state, went town by town, had meetings, stayed late, answered every question, over and over and over."

He won. That state, anyway.

--Chris Wilson