Media figures praise audience-free debate format

Media figures praise audience-free debate format
© CNN

No cheers. No boos.

After Sunday's Democratic debate between Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis MORE (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE went audience-free due to coronavirus concerns, many members of the media praised the format.

"To all those commenting that a debate without an audience is an improvement, I agree," tweeted former CBS News host Dan Rather. "Who knew that substance over histrionics is preferable? Maybe that could be more generally extended to campaign coverage and cable news talking heads, including my own efforts."

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Many journalists said the format eliminated distractions and called for more debates without a live audience. The venue and setup were changed for Sunday's debate following official recommendations for smaller public gatherings to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Previous Democratic debates were punctuated by both boos and cheers that at times shaped viewers' perceptions of the events.

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However, MSNBC's Ari Melber argued that an audience can act as a "counterweight" to the media.

"An audience can add some counterweight to how the media sets the agenda/topics," he tweeted.

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