Fox News is leaving no stone unturned when it comes to preparing for the highly anticipated Republican debate taking place in Cleveland.
In a campaign season that has been anything but typical, Fox made the controversial decision to allow only 10 of the 17 GOP presidential contenders make their case.
According to The New York Times, Fox is hoping the debate Thursday will be a ratings boon, and isn’t going to leave anything to chance.
“The network gave a reporter behind-the-scenes access to debate preparations — everything from ensuring that the lecterns are evenly spaced (42 inches apart, to be exact) to the precise moment the candidates will take the stage (at 30 seconds after 8:56 p.m., sharp) to tweaking the wording of the questions (strictly off the record, until the debate begins).”
“There’s really no margin for error,” Jay Wallace, senior executive of news and politics, told the Times.
“So many people are just so interested in this debate. Whether it’s the number of candidates or Donald Trump, there’s been a spotlight on this one that is unlike any other debate we’ve ever had.”
And the lineup of moderators will be unlike any Americans have seen: Fox News personalities Bret Baier, Megyn Kelly and Chris Wallace.
Trump’s presence will surely draw the most attention. But, Fox’s challenge will be to avoid turning the debate into a one-man circus show, while keeping it entertaining – and informative – at the same time.
“It’s like 100 details must be done right, and the high-wire act of it is, if the most important one or the least important one fails, then it can take the whole thing down,” said Michael Clemente, the executive vice president for news editorial of Fox News. “Even bad lighting on a candidate can make all the difference in the world.”
The details go as far as the sound that will be used to cut off rambling answers.
Instead of the usual soft ding, Fox will be going with the startling shot clock buzzer like the one used during the Cleveland Cavalier basketball games, the Times reported. The idea came from Baier, who said he was recently “inspired by a beer” at a local bistro. (Could there be a drinking game for viewers in here somewhere? Swig of beer at every buzzer? Hmm…)
But Fox moderators aren’t planning on throwing softballs to the Republican nominees. Instead, they say they want to see what they’re made of.
“We have very tough, pointed questions for these guys,” Kelly told The Times. “I only want to advance the debate about the candidates.
Fox CEO Roger Ailes is proud of Fox’s accomplishment, and has high hopes.
“Fifty years ago, the broadcast networks owned politics and the presidential debates, and now our one cable channel that we built less than 20 years ago is where everyone turns to watch these events,” Ailes said, according to The Times.
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