Election Connection

Peaking Interest

Friday's debate between presidential candidates Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain marked the beginning of the end to a very long election cycle. But the debate also brought a renewed interest in the candidates and the electoral process that will undoubtedly only build through to the November election.

Online, more and more tools are launching to get people involved and keep a handle on the growing amount of commentary and information about the election.

Fact-checking the debates can happen almost instantly with the tools now available online. MediaShift looks at what's available now, and found a number of nonpartisan sites, from Media Matters to FactCheck.org and NewsBusters that take a deep dive on politicians' claims. MediaShift also addresses fears from academics that regardless of the available information, people often go online to confirm what they already believe, rather than to get the facts.

Last week, the Washington Post launched its Political Browser, a site that pulls together news and opinion from across the web, dividing sound bites into categories like "Punchlines" (quick hits from the comedy shows and humor web sites), "Trench Warfare" (left and right-wing political blog posts), and the "Blunder Box" (quotes that politicians probably wish they could revise).

To learn more about how traditional journalists are coping with the online space and how political coverage is changing, join in a chat with PBS Engage and NewsHour correspondent Judy Woodruff, where you can both ask questions and rate submitted questions. Possible topics that have been submitted so far include:

Have you noticed any difference between the ways both presidential campaigns field questions from reporters?

Is there any kind of legal way to keep political candidates from distorting or lying about their opponents or their own record?


How do you feel about the so-called Fairness Doctrine?

Add your questions and participate in the chat at 1pm tomorrow by visiting pbs.org/chat.


Rick Waldon said:

Q. Have you noticed any difference between the ways both presidential campaigns field questions from reporters?
A. Yes. The Democrats are given softball questions and the reporters giggle at the responses and talk about how cute B. Hussein Obama is. The Republican's responses are edited and twisted to give the impression that they are big war mongering meanies.

Q. Is there any kind of legal way to keep political candidates from distorting or lying about their opponents or their own record?
A. There's no legal way to keep them from lying and, unfortunately, the liberal media turns a blind-eye to it if the politician is a Democrat. But, we can keep liars out of office by not voting for them.

Q. How do you feel about the so-called Fairness Doctrine?
A. It's not fair - it's a Socialist doctrine.

Josephine said:

I heard this evening on the Rachel Maddow show that the Vice Presidential moderator Ms. Gwen Ifell fell down the stairs carrying her debate materials and broke her ankle.

I wish Ms. Ifel and speedy recovery and rehabilitation.

I also would strongly encourage her to prepare NEW debate questions to ensure the integrity and honesty of the participants. If she fell, she may have droppe her questions which could end up in the participants camps and give them a preparatory edge which is unfair and against the rules.

Thank you for your consideration of my comments in advance.


B Belldina said:

If it is true that VP debate moderator Gwen Ifell is publishing a book about Obama and is very supportive of black politicians, then she needs to be removed immediately from her debate involvement.

PBS is supposed to be impartial. No more public contributins from me if she is the moderator.

Kristen said:

VP debate moderator Gwen Ifell needs to be removed as the moderator. PBS should be ashamed of themselves, choosing someone who will not be fair and balanced. It is clearly not fair to the American public.

Clem said:

I too read this morning that Gwen Ifell is publishing a book about Obama and agree that she should be removed as moderator of Thursday's debate. Please do not let PBS fall into the same category as the other network news programs by being viewed as partial to either candidate.

Grover said:

"Moderator Ms. Gwen Ifell fell down the stairs carrying her debate materials and broke her ankle."

Are we sure she wasn't pushed? I want to hear Palin's alibi.

Paula said:

PBS should demand Gwen Ifill remove herself as Moderator in the V.P. Debate. This is going to have a very negative impact on PBS stations' ETHICS AND MORAL'S. Myself, friends and family members will NEVER support or promote your organization again. SHAME ON YOU!!

Phil said:

It is utterly amazing to watch the coverage of this election. Why are so many "journalists" not calling for truth in reporting? To say that the media isn't in the tank for Obama is an understatement. And now... the next debate is going to be moderated by a blatant Obama activist? How many other ways are there for us to see this propaganda machine work their wonders of deception.

Ifill should be replaced!. OR at least a second moderator added who is as strong an advocate for McCain as Ifill is of Obama. It's called equity. I really don't think mainstream media has a clue what that is though.

So we'll see won't we? If Ifill doesn't step down the true colors of this propaganda machine will be shown to all. Furthermore, even if this does happen how will PBS be able to show that they are truly reporting and not propagandizing their own bent towards Obama. Too little, too late, and rarely equitable is the media for "truth in reporting"...

Amy C. said:

Gwen Ifill must be removed as moderator of the vice presidential debate. She has a personal financial interest in the outcome of the election. She can in no way be fair or unbiased.

Joe Saba said:

Even though PBS is not in directly in control of the debate procedures, PBS should make a public policy and position statement on the upcoming VP debate to be moderated by Gwen Ifill immediately. There should be open disclosure about her book and her obvious advocacy for black leaders, and specifically Obama. No one can realistically expect this moderator to be objective given her emotional and intellectual attachments to Obama, as proven by her new book on Obama and black leadership due to be released on Inauguartion Day. She also has apparently demonstrated a disrespectful attitude toward Palin.

I do not see how thinking people seeking to promote a fair debate can allow Ifill to continue as moderator. Democrats and the media would never allow such a setup if the moderator was promoting McCain. It would be a non-starter until the moderator was replaced.

Bottom line is this is an intolerable approach to conducting a very high stakes VP debate, and the media and debate professionals involved should be ashamed of trying to pull this off in this manner. This even more so since my tax dollars are helping pay for your and Gwen's PBS.

Angry said:

Dear PBS
Below I've copied your own declaration on your donations page. What I'd like to know is how can Gwen Ifill be an independent unbiased moderator when she's writing a PRO-Obama book. you people should be ashamed of yourselves, selecting a moderator who clearly has leftist leanings.
please change the name of this network from Public broadcasting system to Public B***S***

(Americans from all walks of life rely on us for the independent news and analysis they need to make their own decisions. Help keep our independent voice strong by supporting your local PBS station. )

I will from this day on be the worst publicity you people have ever had.

Kathy said:

I just wrote a long comment based on the rules of the blog but it was rejected for some reason and did not return me to what I wrote. So I won't go into my long winded answer.

I'd just like to make a few points.

Gwen Ifiill should not moderate the debate. Too many people think there is bias, AGAIN.

I will no longer support through generous donations, my local public radio and television. Too much bias.

I have never in my life voted for a Republican Presidential ticket. I will this year. The Republicans are much more realistic. It's easy to promise the masses everything. I see the Democrats do it daily. I hope the masses don't drink th Kool-Aide.

MassachusettsLib said:

Gwen Ifell should step down immediately as moderator of the upcoming vice presidential debate. Her new book is by all accounts I've read pro Obama and (coincidentally) it's release date is January 20,2009! She most certainly will be accused of having personal and financial stakes in the outcome of this debate regardless of any attempt to claim "professionalism". Any semblance of fairness, balance and lack of bias will be lost. Our attention in this very critical election should be focused on the candidates, not on the moderator.

nancy said:

i was terribly disappointed when gwen ifill was chosen as moderator of the vice-presidential debates. her disdain for the republican ticket, and sarah palin particularly, was obvious in her coverage after palin's acceptance speech.
as i learn more, i am now nothing short of appalled that she was chosen. to learn that she wrote the glowing, partisan piece for essence magazine and now to find out that she has a definitive financial interest in obama's victory with her book about obama coming out on inauguration day?
ifill should recuse herself and another moderator should be found. especially considering that the questions she will ask are hers and hers alone.
of course, finding an unbiased moderator would be extremely difficult if limited to "journalists". the liberal bias in this country, by our media, is ruining our country. there are some professional journalists still out there. of course, you'll mostly find them on fox news. oh, that's right, democrats won't meet with any fox news moderators.
the liberal bias in the media should finally be so obvious to everyone through the death of journilism over the course of this election cycle. will the average citizen finally see it? the msm are definitely in the tank for obama and should be ashamed to portray themselves as journalists.
for years i have been frustrated that my tax dollars go to partisan groups actively working against my values and my interests, like pbs. it has been many years since i have given them any money voluntarily.
pbs- i am very interested to see what sort of statement you are willing to make here, on behalf of truth, honesty and fairness in your coverage.
you lost my support years ago, and i am sure you will be losing the support of many, many more under this cloud of bias.

Gadsby said:

I've made up my mind to vote for the McCain/Palin ticket. Not because he looks like me, or has the same skin color, but because he is the best man qualified for the job. Therefore, I will not be watching any of the debates. It is a waste of my time. I don't give a flying fig what good debaters, or speech givers,the Obama/Biden ticket exhibits. They are not qualified to do the job. There is nothing that either of these men can say, that will make me change my vote. So why should I bother watching the debates? I don't listen to any of the propaganda network channel's spin either. The networks don't influence my vote. I vote my conscience.

I. Willnot Say said:

I graduated in the 70s with a degree in journalism. There is NO WAY we would have conducted ourselves in the biased way "journalists" do now. Ifill has always been biased in her moderating of debates. She makes no secret of her left-wing politics. Second to expected unfair treatment of Gov. Palin tomorrow night, there is a conflict of interest with potential book sales which would be affected by the election outcome. After Lefty Lehrer, it is only fair & balanced to appoint a conservative to moderate. I will end my sponsorship, if you don't get a conservative moderator by tomorrow night.

Thank you for all the feedback. The PBS Ombudsman http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/ wants to hear your concerns about these issues. Feel free to email ombudsman@pbs.org in addition to posting here.

Debbie said:

A message to the Presidential Debate Commission: Having Gwen Ifill as moderator of the debate, when she is publishing a book with regards to one of the candidates, shows badly for your whole organization. As an American, I see the biggest problem facing America is that the people are no longer being left to decide elections based on truth and fact but by voting on information based on bias. That will be the downfall of our country.

Shamika said:

Remember the 'un'biased reporting from Ms Ifill during the Convention. This is really having me question PBS as really a PUBLIC media. She is probably also INVESTED in ACORN. Where are the ethics here?

Shamika said:

This is stunning me that anyone would NOT see the SERIOUS CONFLICT of INTEREST (financial) with Ms Ifill moderating this particular debate. Business as usual at PBS as if Ms Ifill has NO stake in the outcome of the VP debate. Has Ms Ifill ordered her stationary for her new 'PRESS SECRETARY' position? This is not just about bias or not bias it is about being ETHICAL. After Ms Ifill turns the election tonight (which is obviously Ms Ifill's GOAL by keeping her moderator position) no one will remember that detail and even if they do it won't matter. The PUDDING will have SET. No pudding for me ...thankyou very much! Shame on you Gwen Ifill.

Valerie said:

Gwen Ifill's reaction to Sarah Palin's speech at the Republican National Convention showed the lack of discipline I expect to see in a commentator, not a journalist entrusted with writing the questions for and conducting the only VP debate. I am very concerned that this is being portrayed as a race issue. It's clearly an ethics issue. There's no reason for her not to have told the debate commission about this book. How could it not seem like relevant information? If Barack Obama wins, it's not a stretch to suppose that her book, to be released inauguration day, will sell better. Given the book and Ms. Ifill's attitude toward Ms. Palin's speech, Ms. Ifill owes us an explanation about the appearance of conflict of interest, and PBS owes us a statement. PBS, please consider creating a show called "Reporting and Ethics." Looks like this topic needs more exploration.

Admin said:

Nice to hear someone talking about simplifying and making the tax system fair. Almost half of all "taxpayers" pay no tax at all. If you want to really help people, eliminate, don't expand, refundable tax credits. Instead of the child tax credits, there should be a tax credit for small businesses that hire new full-time employees.
Bottom line is that this is an intolerable approach to conducting a very high stakes VP debate, and the media and debate professionals involved should be ashamed of trying to pull this off in this manner.

Thanks and regards

Max Ray

AmPmInsure Interest Analyst

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