The Lady with the Microphone

Friday, September 28, 2012


In 1992, former ABC anchor Carole Simpson became the first woman to moderate a presidential debate. There hasn't been another female moderator since. That'll change later this year, but Simpson says that even this year, women moderators are confined to the vice presidential debate and a town-hall style debate where the moderator can't ask questions of their own. Brooke talks with Simpson about what women moderators might add to debates. 

Kelley Stoltz - Little Girl


Carole Simpson

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [13]

LL from UWS

Bring back League of Women Voters for TV Debates!

At least, you can find their good efforts to "Make Democracy Work" online:

While we are at it, why don't we discuss why the media is owned by a narrow group of men? Why can't we have more women and minority owned media?

Oct. 07 2012 01:01 PM

It's just you, Simon.
Because I wouldn't have complained about any special effort to get female-representation into the moderation of Presidential debates.
The problem that I, and others, have noted is that there is so much deliberation about racial and gender diversity in the media, without any thought as to the grand lefty prejudices of most of broadcast news and public radio/television.
So let's not stop with Candy Crowley; let's get yet another female debate moderator. I nominate Laura Ingraham.

Oct. 04 2012 06:29 PM

Is it just me, or is it depressingly predictable it's the commenters with male names that feel the need to say: this issue of gender isn't as important as [insert other issue here]? I can't think of anything that more perfectly shows why it would be good to have diversity in the questioners. I'd second the call for a League of Women Voters debate: it'd be healthy for a non-media related group to hold space in the election.
Thanks for the good work, OTM!

Oct. 02 2012 10:32 AM

As to women as moderators: this is itself a relatively small-bore issue provided all debate moderators do a good job.

The larger issue is that there's no accountability for Commission on Presidential Debates to do an effective job grilling a diverse pool of candidates from the political spectrum. Instead, the debate Commission and their corporate sponsors produce a narrow, rigged result for the bi-partisan duopoly. That the Commission does not have women as moderators is symptomatic of who their Executive Director is (the same woman it's always been) and the profile of their Board (probably 10-12 men and two women).

The Commission has a tin ear to criticism because they are themselves a monopoly.

Oct. 01 2012 05:08 PM

Clay from Long Island:

As I bet you know, the reason Jill Stein and Gary Johnson will not be on the dais is, as you know, due to the Commission on Public Debates and the 15% polling requirement. The CPD is a so-called bi-partisan commission peopled only by Democrats and Republicans.

So, they'll be slow to change anything which threatens their duopoly. That apparently includes putting a women in leadership roles as debate moderators.

Oct. 01 2012 05:01 PM

We don't need gender diversity so much as we need intellectual diversity among those asking the questions. Making ad hominem fun of Rush doesn't mean his labelling is wrong.

Oct. 01 2012 02:55 PM
Stacy Harris from Nashville, Tennessee

Carole Simpson makes some excellent points.

In many ways, not much has changed since 1974 when, after landing my first paid on-air radio job (I had been working "off the books" to that point) I was told by a man higher up the chain than I that, as capable as I was, I would ultimately not succeed as the radio news reporter and public affairs program host I was because "the female voice lacks authority." (Mr. Know It All hung up his microphone before I did mine.)

As Carole mentioned that the prime debate moderator responsibilities went to Jim and Bob, it occurred to me that Americans are USED to getting their TV news from (strong, masculine) names (like "Jim" and "Bob") they can "trust" and upon whom they attach the authority, credibility and, apparently, neutrality.

Ms. Crowley's mother apparently did her daughter a disservice in this regard by saddling the future "serious news journalist" with the name "Candy."

I also expected Simpson to credit some of her success in landing the debate moderation slot she did by conceding that, though she was unquestionably qualified and deserving, her prospects couldn't help but have been enhanced by another "plus" Carole brought to the table: that she was a "twofer."

I part company with Simpson, however, with regard to the injection of- by debate interrogaters of either gender- "women's issues" into the presidential debate. Presidents have varying degrees of influence over Congress but presidents do not pass laws. Apart from the funding aspect of abortion, no presidential candidate's opinion on when life begins is of no consequence to anyone other than a one-issue voter, someone who cannot abide a candidate with whom the voter disagrees on any issue, or a voter has no understanding of the separation of the executive and judicial branches. Same can be said for gay rights, gun control, global warming or any other inflammatory populist cause that apparently knows no resolution between election cycles.

For the economy, health care, social security and America's post-911 security are the policy matters that should be the primary focus of questions raised of the candidates during the debates. Other gifts of the 24/7 news cycle that reach a fever pitch every four years, like gaffes and gotcha, of necessity must be dismissed as distractions during nuclear age presidential debates.

Stacy Harris
Publisher/Executive Editor/Media Critic
Stacy's Music Row Report

Sep. 30 2012 10:05 PM

Honestly this sounds like a whine. A vagina does necessarily not give a different perspective. Political diversity does and in fairness that should be the focus if one is looking for different styles of questions.

Sep. 30 2012 01:32 PM
Susan from Chicago

@Charles: Bravo. I couldn't say it any better.

Sep. 29 2012 08:45 PM

I'd be willing to join in your sneering ridicule of Rush Limbaugh's proclamations of a left-wing media bias if, and only if, we could know the voting patterns and ideological sympathies of the employees of the news divisions of CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and NPR.

I'd be delighted, also, if Fox News' employees were polled in a similar way. I suspect that a poll of Fox News' producers, editors, reporters and other staff would be much closer to the American public at large, than any of the other broadcast newtorks. Polling all Fox News employees including the large contingent of staff in New York and Washington DC might even reveal a higher percentage of Democrats than in the U.S. electorate at large. And yet "Fox News" retains its status as a kind of a perpetual whipping boy for OTM and other public radio commentaries.

The request for polling of news staffs isn't such an offbeat or intrusive notion. has done the same thing for every general election since the year 2000:

It is so funny to hear Carole Simpson (and Candy Crowley for that matter) talk about the essential importance of gender diversity for the sake of true balance in reporting the news and performing journalistic inquiries in settings like political debates. Gender diversity and racial diversity are things that the mainstream news media pursue with grand proclamations. What about, uh, some ideological diversity?

Sep. 29 2012 04:26 PM
Carlotta Tyler from Salem

I agree entirely that 'female ghettoizing" is going on re: who-covers-what in the Presidential debates. This is not new and it is extremely irritating - this assignment of limiting roles to women. Time for the excuse of not realizing the key positions were going to the men is over. Like Jack Parr, whose appeal was in asking the very question the viewer was curious about, I notice only women ask the question about issues that deeply involve and concern me. I'm ready to bring back The League of Women Voters, who ran the very best presidential debates. It was a big mistake to shut them down in the repressive 80's. They asked the substantive questions, not the soft, "one-of-the-boys" questions most male media people do.

Sep. 29 2012 01:29 PM
Robert from New York City

How can OTM possibly consider itself authoritative and credible when neither Bob nor Brooke knew how to pronounce the name of the woman most mentioned in this week's lead segment???? Candy Crowley is not a pajama-clad anonymous blogger. She has been prominent for decades on AP Radio and now CNN. She is one of the best people CNN has (which isn't necessarily saying much in Blitzerland ... though in her case it is ... she is terrific). And still, Bob and Brooke (and all others with a hand in producing this show) didn't know she pronounces her name KROH-lee, not KRAU-lee?? You guys even had help but were oblivious to it. Carole Simpson said Candy's name directly to Brooke, correctly, in the recorded interview to which all could have referred when the show's script was later read and inserted. How much media do the people at OTM actually consume? Candy Crowley has not just been dissed by the debate organizers who stuck her in the audience with a mic. OTM should have done much better.

Sep. 29 2012 07:33 AM
clay from Long Island

I really and truly believe this topic is not as important as the lack of candidates on the stage.

There is NO REASON why Jill Stein and Gary Johnson aren't on the stage.

As a male, I would agree to never have another man moderate any of the debates if the CPD would change their restrictive standards and allow all candidates with a theoretical chance to win the electoral college on the stage.

A lot of men and women have put countless hours into working on the Green and Libertarian candidacies for years and years.

As an alternative, the media should also broadcast the Free and Equal debate, to which all candidates who have a theoretical chance of winning are invited.

Sep. 28 2012 08:16 PM

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