The Visual Dimension of Presidential Debates
The presidential debates are media events, solely TV events. -- Professors Dan Nimmo and James E. Combs ( 1983, p. 67)
A medium is not simply an envelope that carries any letter; it is itself a major part of that message. . . . The important concept is that each medium, if its bias is properly exploited, reveals and communicates a unique aspect of reality, of truth. -- Anthropologist Edmund Carpenter ( 1986, pp. 353, and 364)
In the age of television, the very nature of political persuasion had to change. -- Political Scientist James David Barber ( 1980, p. 301)
Although presidential debates began as live confrontations before a specified audience in a designated place, contemporary debates are uniquely major television events. They are broadcast live to a mass audience, most of whom view them in the privacy of their own homes. Presidential debates have moved to what Susan Drucker terms electronic public space, and because the nature of debate changes with the context, this shift has produced "a new form of debate" ( 1989, pp. 7, 20).
The media, which has played a significant role in producing televised presidential debates, rationalizes its participation as public service based on its perceived mandate to provide coverage of live campaign events. Yet, as technical difficulties developed in the latter part of the first 1976