What Happened to Our Debate Questions?

Where were the issues representative of people of color?

Alex Wong/Getty Images
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Concerns of Journalists of Color Missing Again

The verdict is in on Thursday’s vice presidential debate: Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his Republican challenger, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., both advanced their candidacies, and moderator Martha Raddatz of ABC News “won” the debate, some commentators said, with her forceful but tactful questioning.

Nielsen, the television ratings company, estimated Friday that 51.4 million viewers watched at home on one of the 12 rated networks that showed the debate, Brian Stelter reported Friday for the New York Times. That’s fewer than the Oct. 3 presidential debate or the vice presidential matchup in 2008 between Biden and Republican Sarah Palin, yet still sizable.

But what happened to the questions about topics of particular concern to people of color?

In the 90 minutes of discussion Thursday, it seemed once again that no concerns surfaced that had been forwarded from the journalist of color associations. They submitted questions to the Commission on Presidential Debates that were to be passed to Jim Lehrer of PBS, who moderated the Oct. 3 presidential debate, and to Raddatz.

“It is disappointing to see that the questions submitted by The National Association of Hispanic Journalists and its Unity partners have not been chosen by the moderators appointed by the Commission on Presidential Debates,” Hugo Balta, NAHJ president, told Journal-isms Friday by email.

“While it was never promised by the CPD — I’m still hopeful. Mike McCurry, [co-chair] of the CPD only promised to present the questions to the moderators. It would be a missed opportunity by the moderators and telling of their sensibility if none of the questions would be used.

“Regardless of the outcome, NAHJ is committed to working with the CPD and media companies in ensuring that the list of experienced Latino candidates in 2016 is more robust than what it has been in 2012.”

The National Association of Black Journalists’ suggested topics were unemployment and the economy, particularly black joblessness; the Affordable Health Care Act; education; crime and law enforcement, specifically the stop-and-frisk laws; and the nation’s changing demographics. The questions from the Hispanic and Asian American journalists associations emphasized immigration and jobs and those from the Native American journalists were specific to American Indians.