This column from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism poses an interesting question: Why won't newspapers say who won a debate between candidates?
Having written my share of headlines describing candidates sparring, clashing and duking it out, I understand the problem. Writing those, I wondered whether I was really telling readers anything. Most debate headlines don't offer a judgment on who won. They rarely say anything, but hey, they're fair.
In some cases, it's clear who the debate winner was. For example, John Kerry beat President Bush in their first debate in 2004. It took a few days for most of the media to say that, however. In other debates, the outcome isn't so clear, as in later debates between those two.
Regardless of winners and losers, debates rarely match the hype that they generate. Maybe we'll see this headline package someday:
SPARKS DON'T FLY
Candidates dance but land few blows; bout ruled no decision