Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Deggans: Where's the diversity among presidential debate moderators?

Here's the thing about diversity in public life: Once you have some of it, folks demand a lot more.

That's why I'm a little surprised to see the Commission on Presidential Debates offer a slate of moderators for four presidential and vice presidential contests this year that ups the ante of gender diversity, while leaving racial diversity in the dust.

Gwen Ifill, the African-American anchor who handled two previous vice presidential debates ably, was nowhere to be seen on the list of moderators announced Monday. Instead, the commission tapped Ifill's PBS colleague Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer of CBS, Candy Crowley of CNN and Martha Raddatz of ABC.

Crowley will moderate the second presidential debate, a town hall meeting in New York state. That detail drew lots of commentary Monday for a sad fact: It has been 20 years since a woman last moderated one of the commission's presidential debates (former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson did the honors in 1992).

Now, with Raddatz handling the vice presidential debate, there is more gender balance among the four debate moderators than ever, addressing concerns in a petition created by three New Jersey teenagers earlier this year challenging the commission on its two-decade drought.

But in an election that will include the first black president attempting to win another term, there will be no non-white moderators on any of the commission's debates for the first time since 1996, when Lehrer moderated the three held that year.

Ifill, who moderated vice presidential debates in 2004 and 2008, has been involved with covering this election full-time and will co-anchor PBS's convention and election coverage later this year.

But Lehrer, who has quietly retired from PBS NewsHour and said last year he would never moderate another debate, reconsidered when the commission suggested format changes, according to a POLITICO report.

Ifill also wrote a book published on Inauguration Day 2009, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, that led to pointed questions from some conservative critics before the 2008 debate she moderated.

It's sad to note that there are so few journalists of color in key anchor positions, few other names resonate with the experience, profile, gravitas and record of impartial journalism needed to fill the moderator's role. NBC's Lester Holt? Ifill's colleague Ray Suarez on the NewsHour? CNN's Don Lemon, Christiane Amanpour or Soledad O'Brien? (NPR's Michele Norris, another great pick, is sidelined from political coverage because her husband is working on Obama's campaign.)

At a time when the biggest non-white voice in news media may be opinionators such as Al Sharpton and Geraldo Rivera, a set of debates where the candidates are more ethnically diverse than the moderators may say more about failing struggles to diversify the journalism business than anything.

3 presidential debates

Oct. 3: University of Denver; moderator, Jim Lehrer, executive editor, PBS NewsHour.

Oct. 16: Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.; moderator, Candy Crowley, chief political correspondent, CNN.

Oct. 22: Lynn University, Boca Raton; moderator, Bob Schieffer, chief Washington correspondent, CBS News.

Vice presidential

Oct. 11: Centre College, Danville, Ky.; moderator: Martha Raddatz, senior foreign affairs correspondent, ABC News.

Deggans: Where's the diversity among presidential debate moderators? 08/13/12 [Last modified: Monday, August 13, 2012 10:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Report: Trump asked intel chiefs to push back against FBI collusion probe after Comey revealed its existence

    National

    President Donald Trump asked two of the nation's top intelligence officials in March to help him push back against an FBI investigation into possible coordination between his campaign and the Russian government, the Washington Post reports, citing current and former officials.

    From  left, CIA Director Mike Pompeo; Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats; and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers take their seats on Capitol Hill on May 11 before  testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on major threats facing the U.S. [Associated Press]
  2. For Gov. Rick Scott, 'fighting' could mean vetoing entire state budget

    State Roundup

    Every day, Gov. Rick Scott is getting a lot of advice.

    The last time a Florida governor vetoed the education portion of the state budget was in 1983. Gov. Bob Graham blasted fellow Democrats for their “willing acceptance of mediocrity.”
  3. Romano: Time is up chief, make a call on police body cameras

    Crime

    Excuse me chief, but it's time to take a stand.

    St. Petersburg police Chief Tony Holloway
  4. Potential new laws further curb Floridians' right to government in the Sunshine

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — From temporarily shielding the identities of murder witnesses to permanently sealing millions of criminal and arrest records, state lawmakers did more this spring than they have in all but one of the past 22 years to chip away at Floridians' constitutional guarantees to access government records and …

    The Legislature passed 17 new exemptions to the Sunshine Law, according to a tally by the First Amendment Foundation.
  5. Fennelly: This season's Chris Archer is a pleasure to watch

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG

    At this time last season, through 10 starts, Rays pitcher Chris Archer was 3-5 on his way to 9-19.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Chris Archer (22) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, May 21, 2017.