At CNN's Clinton Town Hall, audience coached to cheer for Hillary

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post media blog attended Hillary Clinton's town hall meeting staged by CNN and reports that prior to the show, a stage manager coached the audience to cheer and whoop it up for the former secretary of state:

The event took place at the Newseum, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington between the Capitol and the White House. The District is a blue jurisdiction that turned out 91 percent for President Obama in the 2012 election, and it’s surrounded by places like Arlington County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md. — also very blue spots. When asked whether the Clinton camp played any role in how the town hall interview was presented, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill responded, “this was entirely [CNN's] show, so you should talk to them about it.”

To add “energy” to its show (attended by the Erik Wemple Blog), CNN deployed an enthusiastic stage director who coached the audience to applaud at various points throughout the broadcast — not in a partisan manner for Clinton, but for the sake of the town hall’s television optics. Approximately 15 minutes before the show, the producer ran the audience through a practice round of applause and noise-making. The results of the audience-prodding turn up in the show’s video.

Ovations were plentiful and, quite often, spontaneous. Clinton’s statements on gun control, immigration and other hot topics earned her crowd approval on her own merit.

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, has studied the role of applause in such civic engagements. Though CNN wasn’t hosting a debate, Brown says that a cheering audience “at some point…becomes an editorial statement, it’s a part of what is broadcast. It becomes a part of the program and that’s why we have tried to do exactly the opposite.” At the official presidential debates, the audience gets no encouragement to applaud, and it may do so only at the beginning and end of the sessions.

Here's the result of that stage managing.

Fortunately, hardly anyone watched the town hall as it beat out only MSNBC's "The Ed Show" in that time slot. But perhaps most worrisome is the blurring of the lines between politics and entertainment that CNN so smoothly accomplishes. Once again, Paddy Chayefsky's wildly prescient script for the film "Network" appears to be more prophecy than satire.

Erik Wemple of the Washington Post media blog attended Hillary Clinton's town hall meeting staged by CNN and reports that prior to the show, a stage manager coached the audience to cheer and whoop it up for the former secretary of state:

The event took place at the Newseum, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington between the Capitol and the White House. The District is a blue jurisdiction that turned out 91 percent for President Obama in the 2012 election, and it’s surrounded by places like Arlington County, Va., and Montgomery County, Md. — also very blue spots. When asked whether the Clinton camp played any role in how the town hall interview was presented, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill responded, “this was entirely [CNN's] show, so you should talk to them about it.”

To add “energy” to its show (attended by the Erik Wemple Blog), CNN deployed an enthusiastic stage director who coached the audience to applaud at various points throughout the broadcast — not in a partisan manner for Clinton, but for the sake of the town hall’s television optics. Approximately 15 minutes before the show, the producer ran the audience through a practice round of applause and noise-making. The results of the audience-prodding turn up in the show’s video.

Ovations were plentiful and, quite often, spontaneous. Clinton’s statements on gun control, immigration and other hot topics earned her crowd approval on her own merit.

Janet Brown, executive director of the Commission on Presidential Debates, has studied the role of applause in such civic engagements. Though CNN wasn’t hosting a debate, Brown says that a cheering audience “at some point…becomes an editorial statement, it’s a part of what is broadcast. It becomes a part of the program and that’s why we have tried to do exactly the opposite.” At the official presidential debates, the audience gets no encouragement to applaud, and it may do so only at the beginning and end of the sessions.

Here's the result of that stage managing.

Fortunately, hardly anyone watched the town hall as it beat out only MSNBC's "The Ed Show" in that time slot. But perhaps most worrisome is the blurring of the lines between politics and entertainment that CNN so smoothly accomplishes. Once again, Paddy Chayefsky's wildly prescient script for the film "Network" appears to be more prophecy than satire.

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