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Advisory: Debate watch to be held at Wake Forest tonight

July 23, 2007

Tonight, debate professionals and students will explore how the CNN/YouTube Democratic presidential debate changes the character of presidential debate questions with visiting students from across the United States and Europe at a debate watch event held in Carswell Hall Room111, from 6:30 – 9 p.m. at Wake Forest University.

Most debate watch events focus on the candidates, but in tonight’s forum, students will watch the debate and rate the questions chosen by the CNN/YouTube team, using a 20-point scale.

Wake Forest’s prominent national debate program has worked with the U.S. State Department to bring talented teenagers from across the United States and Europe for the Ben Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative.  Those teenagers have joined high school students on campus for the Policy Project Summer Debate Program, and tonight’s debate watch event is the culmination of courses that focused on citizenship, blogging and the art of questioning.  In group projects, students worked on their own video questions for the debate, several of which have been submitted to the CNN You/Tube debate organizers for possible inclusion in the debate.

Ross Smith, director of debate at Wake Forest, started the ball rolling by submitting his own question and encouraging the students to do the same.  Gordon Mitchell, associate professor of communication and director of debate at the University of Pittsburgh, and Damien Pfister, a teaching fellow at Pittsburgh, followed up by creating the curriculum that culminates in tonight’s debate watch event.

These efforts have been noted by the Huffington Post’s new “Off the Bus” citizen journalism site and at least one campaign debate advisor, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson’s own debate coach, Jeff Parcher.

"This debate and the tremendous participation by young people all across this nation has been a huge win for democracy,” said Parcher.  “These videos literally have the effect of putting voters’ voices and faces in the middle of campaign war rooms across the country.”  According to Parcher, “Participation like this has real impact – it shapes the political dialogue in very positive ways by infusing grass roots perspectives into debates that are too often governed by the perspectives of a very narrow spectrum of America’s media elite.”

Additional contacts:  Ross K. Smith, director of debate, Wake Forest University, 336-251-2076 (cell) or e-mail:  Allan Louden, director, Ben Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Initiative, Wake Forest University, 336-406-8451 (cell) or e-mail:

More resources for the debate watch include:

Press Contacts:

Audrey Fannin
(336) 758-5237

Kevin Cox
(336) 758-5237

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