The Final Presidential Debate

As the presidential campaign raced towards Nov. 6, President Barack Obama and Republican Nominee Mitt Romney utilized any resource they had to make a lasting impression on the American people. One of their last opportunities came with the final presidential debate, which was set to focus on foreign policy. The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post and CNN all participated in initial reporting on the event, which they all managed to spin in their own ways. Although there was little variation in content, as the happenings of the televised event could hardly be disputed, the way the news sources decided to report on the story were unique to the media outlet.

The New York Times ran live coverage of the debate, as well as follow up coverage the day after, which went on the front page. The story covered the basics of what went on during the debate, citing quotes from Obama and Romney about their ideas on foreign policy, as well as documenting when they went off track and began to discuss more domestic issues. However, The New York Times went into more detail about the candidates’ reactions and behaviors towards one another. The article stated that despite all of the “fireworks,” the debate did not accomplish anything significant enough to encourage swing voters to choose a side. The article went into depth describing how the candidates acted, saying Obama, “chopped the air with his hand” and “lectured and even mocked Mr. Romney on the details on certain policies.”The Times described Romney as sitting “stiffly, his hands before him, back ramrod straight.” Although the Times did follow the debate and reported on the happenings, it seems the article was more dedicated to dissecting the candidates’ reactions towards each other and highlighting the “zinger” quotes of the night.

The Washington Post also kept a close eye on the debates, choosing to release an article the night of the election online. While the article did report on the happenings of the debate, the content had less fluidity then the article from The New York Times. The reporter bounced back and forth between what happened with the actual debate and several other factors, such as how the candidates were doing in the polls and the general campaign trail. Also, this article was less focused on how the candidates responded to each other and more on what was actually said. Editorializations such as “mocked” and “sarcastically” were not present in this article. Instead, the article focused on what was said, if the candidates had ever said anything like it before and how it may affect the campaign later on. This more objective viewpoint gives readers a more straight forward idea of what the candidates accomplished during the night, although it did not have the same entertainment factor The New York Times article had.

While they had other articles to follow up on the final presidential debate, The Huffington Post published an interesting article online shortly before the debate as a precursor to the night’s events. This article was particularly interesting due to the more comedic quality of the article. The article poked fun at the debates, comparing it to an “extra special season finale” of a reality television show. It also went on to make sharp social comments, such as noting moderator Bob Schieffer had not come under as much scrutiny as second debate moderator Candy Crowley, presumably because “Schieffer isn’t a woman, and so no one questions why he is speaking aloud in public.” While the article is mostly satirical, it brings up interesting points concerning the previous debates and how they were managed. It is also noteworthy the Huffington Post chose to run an article a few hours prior to the debate, rather than only reporting after the fact. This allows them to refer back to their predictions and see if the debate unraveled the way they thought it would. It also lets readers refer back to these predictions and have a stronger grasp of what the candidates will talk about and how they may interact with each other.

While CNN ran several stories about the final presidential debate, one of the arguably most interesting articles was a round-up of the funniest tweets concerning the debate. The article was released the day after and compiled several tweets the media outlet considered noteworthy. While the article did not go into great detail about what happened during the debate, it covered the basics, such as where and when it took place. It mostly focused on voter response to the election through the popular social media site, Twitter. It pointed out several keys phrases and incidents that had quickly become parodied and turned into hashtags, such as #horsesandbayonettes, referring to Obama’s comment towards Romney about updated naval and military procedures. The tweets poked fun at both candidates, with accompanying hashtags to further the mockery. For example, twitter user W. Kamau Bell tweeted, “President Obama has that “I have Bin Laden’s head in a bag beneath the desk,” look in his eyes. #mockthevote #debate” and Barack Obama’s parody account tweeted “Wait, so Tumult isn’t one of Romney’s sons name? #debate.” The article emphasized the importance of social media in the election, as well as exposing it as an important journalism tool.

-Rachel Taylor


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