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Is Yahoo!’s online debate going to be fair and balanced?

BY David All | Thursday, April 26 2007

When mega-giant Yahoo! decides to play in the political sandbox, I’m going to pay attention. Yahoo! is currently ranked number one in http://www.alexa.com/site/ds/top_500 “>Alexa.org’s Top 500.

So when it was reported this week that Yahoo! had partnered with http://www.slate.com/ “>Slate, Huffington Post, and PBS’ Charlie Rose to host the first-ever online Presidential debate, as a conservative Republican, I immediately felt a curling in my stomach:

The Huffington Post said on Monday Yahoo and the Washington Post Co.'s Slate would help it host two online-only debates, one for Democratic candidates and a second for Republicans, to take place after the U.S. Labor Day holiday in early September.

Candidates will be able to appear online from any location, and will be streamed on the Yahoo Web network and the Huffington Post and Slate sites. PBS public television host Charlie Rose will moderate, selecting questions posed by an Internet audience.

Don’t misunderstand the thrust of this post. This is not a personal dig at Arianna Huffington, the Washington Post’s Slate, or PBS’ Charlie Rose. In fact, I’ve said nice things about Arianna before.

Independently, these organizations and individuals serve as a valuable voice to their audience.

But, that audience is neither objective nor balanced, which means the “first online Presidential debate” will fail to effectively penetrate the conservative sphere. And that’s a dynamic Yahoo! needs to explain (and hopefully, amend).

Let’s dig in to the facts…

The Facts On Slate & Huffington Post
According to the latest Nielsen @Plan for these two websites, we find the following political breakdown of its online readers:

The Washington Post’s Slate:

Sixty-one percent of its readers are registered Dems. Conversely, only 15 percent of those readers are registered Republicans.

Huffington Post:

The balance is even further weighted with more than 77 percent of Huffington Post readers as registered Democrats and a mere 3.8 percent registered Republican.

The Facts On PBS’ Charlie Rose
Let me put on my conservative, “I’ve-never-trusted-the-MSM” cap for this one. I'll probably get a fair amount of criticism from my frenemies [friend + enemies] on the Left for this, but it's worth noting...

According to the NewsBusters blog, which is the media watchdog operated by the conservative Media Research Center, Charlie Rose is anything but objective. In fact, he’s a liberal.

I’ll spare you the re-hash, but feel free to check out this NewsBusters link or do a search of the MRC’s archives to find pre-blog information.

A Fair, Balanced Political Debate?
Since Yahoo! is taking the lead on this debate, it only makes sense that the onus falls on them to better explain the intent of this series of online Presidential debates.

To help remedy this situation, Yahoo! could and should immediately contact conservative organizations like Townhall.com, Redstate.com, National Review, etc. and get them involved.

And for a moderator to help balance the questions Charlie Rose “chooses” from the audience to ask, we’ll need a voice representing our side of the discussion. I’d like to see William Kristol or Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard step in to that role.

The bottom line is that Republicans may be, presently, at a disadvantage online, but Yahoo! doesn’t need to help dig the partisan digital divide even further.

So what do you think? Weigh in on this thread.