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Monday, August 11, 2008
Presidential Debate Moderators as Umpires

Over on The Presidential Debate Blog, Aaron Zelinsky has a really interesting piece entitled Debate Moderators as Umpires. Here is an excerpt:

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The problem is that a debate moderator, like a judge, (and as Professor Howard Wasserman points out in attack on the judge-umpire analogy at Sports Law Blog , the role of an umpire and almost any other decision maker) is more complicated than merely applying a fixed set of rules. Even a moderator who remains “in the background” will have to choose when to keep “the conversation moving and orderly.”

Such decisions are ultimately subjective. When a moderator decides whether the topic discussed is worthwhile, or if all the relevant points have been exhausted, he imposes his own conceptions on the debate. There is nothing inherently wrong with this –indeed, it is an intrinsic part of a good moderator’s job— but there are limits to such discretion. The moderator must walk the fine line between facilitating discussion and becoming party to the debate.

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For the rest of the post, click here.