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Facebook and ABC: Does an Online-Associated Debate Without Significant User Participation Really Matter?



Charlesgibson If I'm correctly reading the information initially circulated by ABC and Facebook, the two debates they are presenting in New Hampshire Jan. 5, just three days before the state's primaries, will feature even less input from online users than the CNN/YouTube matchups.

According to the releases provided earlier today, ABC will allow Facebook members to follow material provided by its campaign reporters before, during and after the debate, which users can discuss in special Debate Groups. Users can also email their favorite reporters and answers polls. Still, while I'm sure the network will find some way to reference the material during its broadcast, I expect anchor/questioner Charles Gibson to live up to his image as the nation's most traditional network news anchor and limit the material coming into the actual debate from online.Facebooklogo

This is a "push" event; the network is mostly pushing information at Facebooks users, with limited venues provided for members to substantively influence any of it. I wonder, in the age of user-generated video, citizen journalism and widespread blogging, whether this will feel like a mostly old-fashioned anachronism.   

Which is too bad -- so far, the online component of this debate series seems more like a gimmick than the CNN/YouTube event, which at least features questions asked by average people even if the actual queries are selected by CNN. As more of these partnerships are announced, media outlets will discover what works and what doesn't as pundits like me figure out whether it actually changes anything.

Click below for the official release; decide for yourself....


Debates to Air in Primetime on ABC Days before the New Hampshire Primary

ABC News, Hearst Argyle’s WMUR-TV and Facebook will host back-to-back Democratic and Republican Presidential debates in New Hampshire on Saturday January 5th. With the country focused on the upcoming New Hampshire Primary and the Iowa Caucuses just concluded, the two 90-minute debates will air in primetime on national television starting at 7:00 p.m., ET/PT on the ABC Television Network.

Both debates will be held on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. ABC News Anchor Charles Gibson will moderate and will be joined in the questioning by WMUR Anchor and Political Director Scott Spradling. Before, after and during the debates, Facebook users will be able to participate in Debate Groups, providing a companion to the televised debates.

“Coming on the heels of the Iowa Caucuses, these back-to-back primetime events will let voters in New Hampshire and throughout the country see the candidates challenge each other at a moment in the campaign when the stakes couldn’t be higher,” said ABC News President David Westin.

“WMUR is proud of its tradition of informing New Hampshire voters,” said WMUR President and General Manager Jeffrey Bartlett. “We're excited to once again produce these important debates, Bartlett added.

The first 90 minute debate will air beginning at 7:00 p.m., ET/PT followed by immediately by the second debate with a break between them only to re-set the stage. (The order of the debates will be decided by a coin toss.)

Candidate participation in the debates will be contingent upon objective criteria established by the debate hosts.  The format of the debates and information about media credentialing will be announced at a later date.

Hearst-Argyle's WMUR will provide additional exclusive digital content on its web platforms: and 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 21, 2010 2:42pm]


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