It’s Hard Out Here For A Debate Moderator

By Alex Weprin 

B&C‘s Andrea Morabito has a lengthy look at the upcoming Presidential debates (subscription required), as well as interviews with the moderators. One of the overarching themes: while the moderators may be TV anchors, debates are not subject to the same rules as anchoring.

“When I’m moderating Face the Nation, I’m trying to get news. I’m trying to find out how to advance the story,” Schieffer says. “This is different.”

“You’re not functioning as a journalist in a purer sense, you’re functioning as a moderator of a presidential debate, which is a step and a process that is one of the most important things we do as an American democratic society,” Lehrer adds.


Moderators prepare in a similar way to a big interview, however, starting with reading as much as they possibly can on the candidates and on the key policy issues that are the focus of their debate.

“I drove 800 miles last weekend and I listened to every possible podcast, books on tape about different subjects that could relate to the debate,” says Raddatz. “There’s not a moment that I’m not trying to fill my brain with something about this.”

Each of the moderators say they are spending time reaching out to policy experts and think-tank employees–though no one involved with a campaign or political party–as well as fellow journalists to pick their brains for suggestions on topics and questions. They receive plenty of input from others… solicited or not.

“I can assure you that I do not lack for suggestions that come into my email box constantly,” says Crowley.