With the presidential election three weeks away, undecided voters are looking for any indication to pick one candidate over the other. As we witnessed a few weeks ago, the format of the presidential debate doesn’t really help these undecided voters out, as the debate format leads to constant interruptions and more arguing than actual debating for these particular candidates.
The town halls aired at the same time. NBC aired President Donald Trump’s town hall, ABC aired former Vice-President Joe Biden’s. I tried to switch back and forth between watching both, but I felt as though I was missing a lot of important and substantial content each time I switched over. Quite like this entire election cycle, it left me feeling frustrated. I can’t imagine how undecided voters felt.
The fact that NBC and ABC decided to air these town halls at the same time says a lot about how these media companies view the election. It’s a great example of horse race journalism: where journalists and media are more concerned with making elections look like a race and entertainment. They focus on polling data and public perception more than they focus on actual substantial policy. In the case of these town halls, that concern lies largely in television ratings of competing media companies.
Personally, I found myself watching the Trump town hall and switching to Biden’s during the commercial. I then switched back to Trump’s town hall when Biden’s town hall aired a commercial. I am finding myself eating my words of what I said about the first debate: the debate format may have been terrible, but this was much worse.
If the media corporations of ABC and NBC decided to air these town halls at different times, maybe these town halls would be a perfect solution to the issue that the debate brought forth. These diametrically opposed candidates proved at the first debate that they were not there to discuss policy: they were there to argue, fight and make personal attacks. Town halls are without a doubt a better format: but airing them at the same time was a bad choice.
Surely these media giants made this decision so they could use audience size comparison as another form of polling. We will surely see all news organizations comparing and analyzing the viewership of these two town halls. It’s entertaining. People who have been looking at and tracking polls through this election cycle will be relieved to see something new outside of poll numbers that have remained relatively the same over the past few months. That would be fine if the outcome of this election was nothing more than entertainment, but it’s not.
The fact that ABC and NBC decided to air the town halls at the same time just proves they view this election as a game. It’s all about what they can do to up their viewership, up their ratings and up their ad revenue. This election is not a game though. This election will determine a lot for this country for the next four years. We can’t keep putting the possible fate of elections in the hands of media conglomerates that don’t actually care about helping voters understand policy. They only want to help themselves.
Mikayla Rochelle is a senior studying strategic communication at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Mikayla by tweeting her at @mikayla_roch.