Our Community. Our Nation. Our World.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The News Tip: Don't Get Distracted In Debates

Republican presidential candidates debate in California on Sept. 7. NBC's Brian Williams says a moderator's persistence can reveal which questions candidates want to avoid.
Republican presidential candidates debate in California on Sept. 7. NBC's Brian Williams says a moderator's persistence can reveal which questions candidates want to avoid.
Sometimes you're going to have to ask a question ... which is constructed in a very specific way — like Legos — for a reason. Because it's designed to shut off areas of escape for candidates and elicit a certain answer, and it may not always sound or come off well.

The Republican presidential hopefuls will meet in Orlando on Thursday for their next debate. It's an additional opportunity for the candidates to try to set themselves apart in a crowded field. It's also a chance to take stock of the debate moderators.

NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik has this tip for the moderators: Don't get distracted.

He tells Weekend Edition host Audie Cornish that the "theatricality" of some debates can make people forget their purpose.

Moderators are not just "traffic cops," Folkenflik says; they also have to focus the debate. NBC's Brian Williams, who moderated a debate between the GOP candidates earlier this month, has said his role as moderator is not to be popular, it's to help the viewers.

Folkenflik says framing the questions correctly is important, but moderators also have to be persistent. Candidates use a number of tactics to avoid answering questions, and a moderator's persistence can also show the audience that the candidate is purposefully choosing not to address a particular question.

What's your tip for presidential debate moderators? Share it with us on Facebook.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.