From Publishers Weekly
Former FCC chairman Minow and Northwestern journalism professor LaMay (Abandoned in the Wasteland
) continue their collaboration with a book that is part history, part memoir, part advocacy and part apologia. Minow, an early organizer of the televised debates and the current vice chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, is the debates' greatest champion and most clear-eyed critic. Minow and LaMay readily admit to the debates' imperfections: the frequent omissions of third-party candidates and inquiries from the public. The authors suggest that in order for the debates to be more useful for voters, candidates must be more spontaneous, present fewer canned speeches and be open to answering questions from the audience (as in the YouTube debates) and from each other. Furthermore, the authors urge radio and television broadcasters to provide affordable public-service time to presidential candidates and that information be made available on the Internet to supplement comments during the debates. Although the book suffers from its lack of chronology and needless reiteration, Minow's perspectives are peerless, and the timeliness and importance of the topic make for worthwhile reading.
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“Newton Minow is the father of televised presidential debates, the most important new political institution of the last half century. From his memo to Adlai Stevenson first suggesting the idea in 1955 to his sensible proposals for new formats in 2008, he has stood at the center of the ‘debate over debates,’ casting a cool eye on the medium and on the democratic process he has done so much to shape. This book tells that compelling story with wit, verve, and penetrating insight.”
“Newton Minow and Craig LaMay provide a fascinating look at the development of televised presidential debates and provide insightful suggestions on how to improve them. They’re the perfect persons to guide our thinking on this important topic, plus they’ve made the issues fun to read about.”
“There may be no one alive who cares more about America’s democracy than Newton Minow, who was there at the creation of the modern political debate. The riveting first-person stories he and Craig LaMay tell of debates in one election after another take us to the heart of American political life and argue for a continued central role for debates in our electoral process. Their book is must reading for anyone who wants to understand how to ensure that comes about.”
"No one is more qualified to write [this book] than Minow, who as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission under John F. Kennedy, called TV a 'vast wasteland' and has been a key part of the presidential debates for decades. . . . He tells an important story well and briefly."
"Minow, an early organizer of the televised debates and the current vice chairman of the nonprofit, nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates, is [their] greatest champion and most clear-eyed critic. . . . [His] perspectives are peerless, and the timeliness and importance of the topic make for worthwhile reading."
“An utterly fascinating and timely glimpse into how the presidential debates were created, how they have evolved through the years, and the indispensable role they continue to play in our democracy. Minow and LaMay’s book is a gem.”
"An insightful look at America's televised presidential debates. The authors present the story in a book destined to become a classic. . . . A delight to read; rarely does one encounter scholarly exploration expressed in prose lucid, enlightened, and laced with wit."
“Inside the Presidential Debates is a hybrid of genres—part history, part policy memoir, and part apologia—that quickly ebbs and flows among various topics, such as a personal anecdote from Minow to several pages of background on the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858 to a discussion of Saturday Night Live’s influence on how Americans understand modern debates. . . . Worthwhile reading.”
(Presidential Studies Quarterly