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Ramping Up the Debates

Reported by Nancy - September 28, 2004 -

FNL, like a lot of other media, is hyping the upcoming presidential campaign debates. But FNL today (9/28) is doing it in a typically FNL way: second-class.

Amid all the hype for the debates, FNL is largely tooting Fox's own horn. They're not covering the formats or the issues in any depth. This morning's show (9/28) included a good example of what I mean.

At 11:01am (EDT), Brigitte Quinn interviewed Rick Lazio (GOP) & Willie Brown (Dem) about the Kerry-v-Bush debate scheduled for Thu 9/30/04. Nothing unusual here -- all 3 did the usual talking heads routine, with questions from Quinn about whether the format gave either candidate an advantage, & whether style or substance would be more important, & answers from both Lazio & Brown fitting the molds you might expect.

This particular interview lasted about 5 mins. It was preceded by a disjointed 3-min report from Molly Henneberg that showed results of a variety of Fox/Opinion Dynamics polls & included clips of Karen Hughes, Bush & Kerry. It was followed by a 2-minute "Happy Iraq"-style report from Greg Palkot in Baghdad, emphasizing how well we're doing because US planes are bombing Sadr City & Fallujah, & someone who is supposed to be a "lieutenant" of Al-Zarqawi has been captured [comment: why they insist on attributing Western-style military structure to groups that have little or no formal organization is beyond me].

Compare this to the 6 minutes devoted to Jay Leno announcing Conan O'Brien as his replacement (10:48am EDT), which included Lisa Bernhard interviewing Stephen Battaglio of TV Guide; or the 7 minutes Quinn later (11:13am EDT) spent interviewing Leonard Spector of The Monterey Institute about the possibility of a dirty bomb in the US.

Meanwhile, my regional 24/7 cable news channel, at the same time as Quinn's superficial interview aired, ran a 12-minute segment on the same debate that included extensive interviews with people who have actually debated Kerry (e.g., William Weld) or Bush (e.g., Ann Richards) as well as observations from prominent, well-respected people at prominent, well-respected think tanks. This is not atypical -- my regional cable news channel happens to be a fairly high-quality operation that provides top-notch coverage on a variety of issues.

Comment: Why does FNL consistently invite second-rate guests to discuss or comment on important issues? If my *regional* cable news channel can cover the same issues in more depth & with better analysis, surely Fox has the resources available to upgrade FNL.