Round Up: Global Debate News & How Tech Companies Are Changing Debates

The latest from the Philippines, Scotland and Guyana, plus Lincoln-Douglas zingers, behind-the-scenes stories from U.S. debates, and the rising role of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.


New in the Rethinking Debates series: What it Took to Hold Malawi’s First-Ever Presidential Debate—12 candidates, two languages, and a taskforce comprised of media organizations, election observers and human rights groups. And that was just the beginning.

The Philippines: Presidential candidates in the Philippines are gearing up for their second debate on March 20. Billed as the “Cebu Face-Off,” the debate will be held at the University of the Philippines campus in Cebu City and will be hosted by TV5 and the Philippine Star. Independent candidate Sen. Grace Poe said the contenders will “remain respectful to each other” and “decent.” 

Merundoi debates poster“It will be a different format, definitely, and shorter commercials,” Gregg Lloren, a UP faculty member and event manager for the debate, told Rappler, referring to the 48 minutes of commercials that interrupted the first debate.

Scotland: In the run-up to the Scottish Parliament Election on May 5, the BBC is hosting two televised party leader debates and is commissioning a poll to learn more about issues that matter to voters. The first debate is scheduled for March 24.

Guyana: The non-profit organization Merundoi is hosting a series of debates in advance of the March 18 election—the first local government elections since 1994. Merundoi is accepting questions for candidates on its Facebook page and via a dedicated Gmail address and phone number. The debates, scheduled for March 13-15, will be broadcast by NCN and streamed live at

This Week in Debates: U.S. News

Tech Companies Play Big Role in Debates: By now we’ve gotten so used to Facebook, Google and Twitter logos and mentions during the debates, it’s easy to forget the inclusion is relatively new. 

“More than half of the sanctioned primary debates this cycle have been co-sponsored by tech companies. That’s more than in 2012 and in 2008, when the only tech-network partnership, between CNN and YouTube, was treated as a novelty,” writes David McCabe in The Hill. “The companies are also influencing what gets on screen. Google has YouTube stars ask candidates questions and Facebook’s data is regularly referenced by debate moderators as a barometer of the public mood.” 

McCabe references the moment when CBS producers pulled a tweet critical of Hillary Clinton during a debate and used it in a follow-up question. We’ve got an in-depth interview with Adam Sharp, head of news, government and elections at Twitter, on How Twitter and CBS Found the “Voice of the Crowd,” and a story on Google putting its star YouTube creators front and center during the debates.

Behind the Scenes: Jake Tapper and CNN’s political team rehearsed for last week’s Republican debate with a series of mock debates that were “dialed up a few notches” to prepare them for anything that might happen. 

“We can’t control when candidates attack each other, but we can at least anticipate when it might happen,” CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist told the Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post looks at CBS anchor and debate moderator John Dickerson’s analytical style and his memorable exchange with Ted Cruz during the Feb. 13 debate over Supreme Court appointments.

And the A.V. Club takes readers behind the scenes of putting together a presidential debate (and pulling it off without a hitch). Read this Q&A with Randy Trumbull-Holper and Lisa Dickson, both of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Zelazo Center, where Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton debated in February. In addition to learning what “mag security” means, you won’t want to miss Clinton’s personal note to Trumbull-Holper’s young son.

How to Talk to Your Kids About the Debates: The last Republican debate was relatively civil—good news for parents struggling to explain some of the mudslinging in this year’s presidential debates. “They should have ratings at the front of the debates,” one parent told NPR. “You know: ‘Contains language, and violence, and sexual content.'”

In Colorado, a high school holding a mock caucus banned insults. Some have noted that campaign trail comments could be taken as bullying, which in Colorado violates state rules.

But before getting nostalgic for the days of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, read Harold Holzer’s look at 19th-century debate zingers

Promoting More Debates at the State Level: A bipartisan group of civic leaders in Washington has formed a coalition to promote free, nonpartisan debates that allow for direct public participation. Organized by Seattle CityClub, the Washington State Debate Coalition has drawn support from area colleges, universities, and media organizations.

“Informed, publicly accessible debates are harder to come by these days,” Diane Douglas, executive director of Seattle CityClub, told the Seattle Times.

The coalition will host U.S. Senate and gubernatorial debates this fall. One of the goals is to get candidates to commit to debates—especially incumbents or well-known candidates wary of taking part in high-profile events that could help their opponents. (Ohio’s Ted Strickland might know something about this.)

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, televised debates are scheduled this month for that city’s mayoral race, as well as for Milwaukee county executive and Wisconsin Supreme Court, a statewide race.


Check out the Rethinking Debates series, a look at debate formats and innovations that increase civic engagement, and sign up for the Rethinking Debates newsletter for the latest posts and news.