Do It Live

There’s a Democratic gubernatorial debate on television tonight at 7 PM. Of course, you already knew that because you might have already read about it at the Sun.

In the first televised debate of election season, eight Democrats running for Maryland governor swiped at popular Republican incumbent Larry Hogan and highlighted their differences on whether they would raise taxes if elected or if they embraced Martin O’Malley-era crime-fighting policies.

The hour-long, taped debate will air at 7 p.m. Monday and offer many voters their first glimpse at the broad range of candidates seeking the nomination — from longtime executives and politicians to first-time candidates.

If you didn’t read about it there, you might have seen all of the Tweets and Facebook comments around social media discussing in great detail the particulars of debate.

Trending: Thank You

It’s 2018. A car will come pick me up at my command, I can order almost any book or movie and have it delivered straight to my phone but we can’t get a statewide gubernatorial debate broadcast live in prime time?

Tape-delayed debates like this are a disservice to voters. Yes, I agree that most voters are better served with a debate airing in prime-time than one airing at 11 am, which is the time this debate was taped this morning. But having the debate at 11 am should be a non-starter if the debate is going to be televised in prime time. What possible reason is there for a debate to be recorded and aired hours later as if its some sort of made-for-TV airing of an Olympic event.

Voters are not at all served by having these events on tape delay. By the time many voters are sitting down to watch this thing, many may have already snippets of facts from tweets or may have read the description of it in the paper. The candidates and their campaigns will come into the airing of the debate tonight with tailor-made, pre-packaged tweets and infographics ready to spin the debate toward their particular side.

How are voters supposed to make an informed decision when so much of the content and coverage may prejudice their thoughts?

Back in the late 1990’s the WWE, looking to save a buck, pre-taped every other episode of their weekly Monday Night Raw shows. The live shows were unpredictable, interesting, and popped a good rating. The taped shows were edited, boring, predictable, and had lower ratings. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see the similarities here.

Debates are good and healthy and we should have quite a lot of them. But voters deserve to see the candidates live and not be left wondering if what they are seeing is real or if it’s Memorex. Candidates should answer questions, rebut, debate, succeed, and fail with everybody watching at the same time, with no media, networks, or handlers getting a head start on spinning the narrative. They should do it live on television in a debate taking place in prime time. And if the TV stations think it’s too expensive or too much hassle, there are plenty of other ways to broadcast a debate live including via Facebook live as Red Maryland did for the Anne Arundel County Sheriff’s debate.

Voters deserve better than tape-delayed debates; so why do our TV stations insist on them?

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