“In the first debate, CNN went almost exclusively with a split-screen shot of the candidates—a choice a number of other outlets picked up and went with as the night progressed. So instead of the occasional reaction shots of candidates, they were on camera virtually the entire time, which only served to underscore the president’s distracted, disengaged body language.” Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times, Oct 23, 2012.
Richard Roeper’s observation hearkens back to another famous presidential debate, between Kennedy and Nixon. Those who watched on TV thought Kennedy won the debate. Those who listened on the radio chose Nixon as the winner. Kennedy had taken make-up for the televised debate, while Nixon refused it and looked sweaty and pale.
In the first, Obama-Romney debate, did CNN’s choice of a split screen depict a president who was distracted, disengaged, and lacking authority? Or did it simply exaggerate the fact? Either way, how the image was shot affected viewers’ perceptions of the President.
Most people, from what I’ve heard, agree that Mr Romney out-and-out won that first debate. Will these first impressions sway the voters in his favor? Will the U.S. have a new president in a few weeks because of CNN’s split decision?
Many argue that we, not technology, harbor free will, unaffected by technology. And for each individual, this is true. On their own, individuals decide their relationship with technology. But technology’s influence happens on mass scales, not micro ones. It affects large groups over time, not single individuals.
It just may be that CNN’s mass television audience will be swayed by this technical decision. After all, small changes in massive groups can still bring about significant shifts, even in something as important as who will be the next president.