No Audience? No Problem. A TV Debate Like Few Others Gets High Marks.


There is some irony that CNN — the network that helped pioneer “SportsCenter”-design political protection, with enjoy-by-engage in analysts, countdown clocks, and headset microphones for its anchors — would win admirers for web hosting a sober, un-splashy discussion.

Had the network had its druthers, and the coronavirus had not spread, Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders would have been jousting onstage at the Arizona Federal Theater in Phoenix, a concert corridor that seats up to 5,000 persons.

In CNN’s defense, its producers have been only pursuing tradition. Because 1976, when Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford debated 3 moments in public, the presence of a reside, reactive viewers has step by step turned ingrained in the DNA of televised debates.

Donald J. Trump, as a prospect in 2016, dominated his Republican key opponents in aspect by galvanizing the in-particular person crowds, which generally applauded his just one-liners and drowned out his rivals’ retorts.

Mark Lukasiewicz, who produced 10 debates for NBC News and MSNBC from 2004 to 2016, stated that he under no circumstances proposed — and NBC News never regarded — web hosting a presidential debate without the need of a reside audience during his tenure there.

“All of us — the networks, the functions and the candidates — became invested over the many years in earning debates even bigger and splashier each cycle,” Mr. Lukasiewicz, who now teaches at Hofstra College, stated in an interview on Sunday night. “There’s no question that we allow substance and articles experience.”

“It would be wonderful,” he extra, if the viewers-fewer CNN discussion “showed us all there is a superior, more simple, older way.”

Maggie Astor contributed reporting.


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