Presidential debate: Teenage girls campaign for woman moderator in 2012
Three female high school students have launched an online petition drive to convince the Commission on Presidential Debates to name a female moderator for one of this year's televised presidential debates.
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Ms. Brown pushed back hard against allegations that women have been excluded as moderators, noting that nine women and 12 men have sat on panels and moderated vice-presidential debates since 1988. Still, she says the commission “welcomes input from everyone.”Skip to next paragraph
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Besides, Brown adds, variations among moderators don’t fall across gender lines.
“There’s a difference in moderating styles between any two individual moderators,” she says.
But others say the expectations ahead of presidential debates could shift when a female moderator is involved – particularly in this year’s campaign where issues like abortion and contraception have coalesced into what Democrats call a “war on women.”
Others say it’s impossible to predict what female moderators would ask – simply because they’ve haven’t had the chance for 20 years.
Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women in Media and News, pointed to the 2004 vice-presidential debates, when Ms. Ifill moderated, as evidence that women can broach unique and poignant policy areas. Ifill asked Mr. Cheney and Mr. Edwards about confronting the hardships of black women who suffer disproportionately from AIDS.
“When you had an African-American woman journalist in control of the questioning, then you had very relevant questions being asked,” Ms. Pozner says. “The fact that it happened during a vice-presidential debate is great. But vice presidents don’t shape policy in the way that presidents and their bully pulpits do.”
Pozner says the historic lack of women as presidential debate moderators reflects their underrepresentation in major journalistic roles, as both reporters and producers.
“The higher you go up the media ladder, the lower the percentages of women in positions of power,” she says.
The petition’s creators won’t endorse prospective female moderators but their Change.org page offers photos of some contenders: Ifill, ABC News' Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric, CNN's Christiane Amanpour, CBS News' Leslie Stahl, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. The students say the campaign isn’t about support for a particular candidate but rather a call for equal representation that any top woman news broadcaster or any top newswoman could fulfill.
The moderator selections will be announced sometime this summer, Brown says. Next week, the girls will travel to Washington, D.C., to present their petition in person to the CPD.