CNN/YouTube debate more like a talent show, says VU debate expert

While the Republican CNN/YouTube debate is likely to generate increased excitement among younger voters, there are deeply troubling aspects of this new genre, according to a Vanderbilt communication studies professor.

Vanessa Beasley, an associate professor of communications studies at Vanderbilt University, said she is concerned about the direction presidential forums are headed in terms of informing the voters.

“The appearance of a conversation between interested citizens and the candidates is certainly attractive, but, in reality, this is as much about entertainment as discussion of the issues,” said Beasley. “While some of the YouTube questions are poignant, many of them appear to be designed to be ironic, cynical or provocative for the sake of provocation alone. Potentially then we’re asking the questioners as well as the candidates to be clever and funny, but there’s no premium on any kind of intelligent exchange among the participants.”

Beasley expects the candidates will prepare for the Nov. 28 debate just as they have for the others. They will review the issues likely to come up and the messages that they want to convey to the viewers. They also will have planned jokes to tell at the expense of the other candidates.

The sparring between candidates Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, which has grown more heated recently, will be interesting to watch in the YouTube format, said Beasley. Since the candidates will be responding to questions posed by ordinary citizens, as opposed to journalists, they will need to show their interpersonal skills and not appear too confrontational with their responses.

Editor’s note: To schedule an interview with Beasley, call 615-322-2706 or email

Media Contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, 615-322-NEWS

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