What role should journalists play in presidential debates?

Newt Gingrich said earlier this week that if he wins the Republican nomination for president, he won’t participate in any debates moderated by reporters. His announcement came on the heels of John McCain’s claim that it’s “time to stop” the debates altogether.

Their comments raise questions about the value of having 19 different debates, and about journalists’ role in the debates. Should journalists be the moderators of presidential debates? (Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark says no.) And are debates even worth the bother?

Reuters’ Jack Shafer and Adam Smith, political editor of Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, discussed their thoughts on these issues and answer related questions from participants in a live chat. Smith also talked about what it was like being a panelist in last week’s debate.

You can replay the chat here:

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