Let's be honest: Our election debates don't make the most scintillating television and you may tempted to skip them. But that's exactly what media pundits are hoping.
They want to be the ones that do all the spinning, giving you those so-called defining moments and, often, telling you who won and who lost.
We've already seen media interests try to control the debate situation. It was the infamous consortium that sought to exclude Green Party leader Elizabeth May, triggering an angry reaction, even from Tory supporters. Exactly how did the media honchos get the power to make these decisions, they wanted to know. You'd think that Elections Canada and not a couple of TV execs in a board room would be defining the terms of the debate.
The public won that round, fortunately. Now we have to make sure we don't fall into the thrall of media commentators again. Here's what happens after the debates are over. News anchors sit alongside strategists from all parties to assess the debate. We're all smart enough to know that the Tory hack will say Harper won, the Grit will tout Dion as the winner, the NDPer'll praise Layton, etc. Most of us know how that these responses are scripted, probably before the debate even takes place. That's not too toxic.
But it gets really problematic during the TV news hour. That's when editors pick out little sound bytes representing what they feel are the debates' most significant moments. Problem is, almost every time out, theirs won't be the significant moments you yourself would choose. I almost never agree with what a so-called objective political pundit has to say about who scored points in a televised debate.
By the end of the night, TV and radio networks have played the same 30 seconds - out of a two hour debate - over and over again so that you're almost convinced of the power and importance of those tiny snippets.
Not all of this happens because the news media are inherently evil or biased. It has more to do with the time and space restraints they have to deal with. Equally significant is the fact that newscasts believe they're doing a public service for those who didn't watch the debates themselves.
Don't put yourself into that category. Turn the tube on and watch the political process unfold in its entirety in front of your own eyes. You wouldn't let some media flack cast your vote for you, would you?