Sam Feist: CNN To ‘Use Every Tool At Our Disposal’ To Help Viewers Make Sense Of Debate

By Alex Weprin 

Because essentially every network will be showing the same video feed for the debate tonight, it is up to the producers at each channel to figure out what they can do differently.

Pre and post-debate analysis are a given, but CNN is also planning to change things up during the debate too. Taking advantage of the HD screen space, CNN plans to have an audience reaction meter from focus groups at the bottom of the screen, where the “flipper” normally is. CNN had a similar graphical gimmick in 2008. CNN also plans to put the question asked by the moderator on the screen, allowing viewers to see for themselves whether a candidate is dodging the question. Finally, CNN will have a clock displaying the amount of time each candidate speaks for.

“In some debates candidates get more time than in others,” CNN Washington bureau chief Sam Feist tells TVNewser. “The campaigns track it, journalists track it and this time the viewers will be able to track it, without a stopwatch.”

Of course, CNN is not forgetting the bread and butter of cable news debate coverage: the analysis.

“We will use every tool at our disposal to help our views understand who had a successful debate and who didn’t, who won and who accomplished what they hoped to accomplish.”