Televised Presidential Debates: Advocacy in Contemporary America

By Susan A. Hellweg; Michael Pfau et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter Two
The Structure of Presidential Debate Formats

The goal is not to find a "perfect" format for presidential debates, but rather to develop appropriate and productive ones for different situations.

-- Communication Professor Susan Hellweg

( 1984, p. 25)

The perfect format may never be devised or even accepted by the candidates, but any debate format produces more opportunity to address issues than do advertising, stump speeches, or evening news sound bites.

-- Communication Professor Diana Prentice Carlin and Executive Director of the Commission on Presidential Debates Janet Brown

( 1989, p. 1)

Any serious candidate for president of the United States . . . will be able to avoid revealing anything about his positions he does not wish to reveal. This will hold true no matter how skillful or tough a question is asked, and no matter who asks it; most politicians of national stature can evade uncomfortable questions by emphasizing unrelated points. Thus, whatever the format, only the candidates ultimately determine the quality and depth of information provided to voters. -- Journalist Joel L. Swerdlow ( 1984, pp. 20-21)

According to J. Jeffery Auer ( 1977), traditional debate contains the following five elements: (1) a confrontation, (2) in equal and adequate time, (3) of matched contestants, (4) on a stated proposition, and (5) to gain an audience decision.

Looking at the prerequisite conditions of debate described by Auer, it is doubtful whether presidential campaign debate telecasts thus far have

-21-

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Televised Presidential Debates: Advocacy in Contemporary America
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Copyright Acknowledgments v
  • Contents ix
  • About the Series xi
  • Notes xiii
  • Series Foreword xv
  • Note xix
  • References xix
  • Preface xxi
  • Chapter One - History of Television Involvement in Presidential Debates 1
  • Note 19
  • Chapter Two - The Structure of Presidential Debate Formats 21
  • Chapter Three - The Verbal Dimension of Presidential Debates 37
  • Chapter Four - The Visual Dimension of Presidential Debates 71
  • Chapter Five - The Impacts of Presidential Debates 101
  • Conclusions 125
  • Appendix 129
  • References 133
  • Author Index 155
  • About the Authors 167
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