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Comes courtesy of new media guru C.C. Chapman. Wouldn't you know I learned about his blog post via his Twittering.


Blogging the Presidential Debates

As newsrooms throughout the country prepare to cover tonight’s Republican Presidential debate on CNN, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at some of the online coverage from Sunday’s debate.

While most newspaper websites offered the usual crop of blogs, cnn.com also had Republican strategist Mike Murphy and Democrat columnist Arianna Huffington providing live color commentary via streaming video. If you tuned in to the coverage on CNN’s Pipeline service, what you saw was a split screen with Huffington and Murphy on one side sitting and watching the debate on TV while offering commentary, as the other screen showed the debate itself. I thought it was an interesting approach since it acknowledged that some people can walk and chew gum at the same time and that for many viewers, the commentary was just as important as the debate itself.

On washingtonpost.com’s The Fix, Chris Cillizza used video excerpts to increase the impact of his blog entries. So in addition to four or five paragraphs about Senator Chris Dodd getting applause, he included video of the exchange. If you look at his entire coverage of the debate, you’ll see that while he didn’t include video with every entry (ok, only four times), he did it often enough to enrich his reader’s experience.

Meanwhile on politico.com, Ben Smith made what I thought was a valuable point at the start of his coverage.

“A brief note on the strangeness of covering these debates: Hundreds of reporters are assembled at Saint Anselm College in Manchester watching the same debate on nice flat-screen televisions that we could watch on cheaper televisions at home,” he wrote.

It is a good point to note that for the many newsrooms that don’t or can’t send reporters to actual debates, there is no reason why you can’t still offer live coverage. For example:

  • Get a group of local political observers together to watch the debate and let a member of your staff serve as their online moderator for a live conversation via a blog about the debate.
  • Create a forum and encourage readers to post their thoughts or comments about the debate as it's happening.

My only caveat is to be honest with your readers about where you are and make sure you promote the coverage both online and in-print.

What did you think of the online coverage? Were there any techniques that you thought worked? What are your plans for future debate coverage?