Four Tips for Watching Political Debates as Race for Governor Heats Up

post thumbnail image

Image credit: Rick Pluta/Michigan Public Radio Network

Whether you know who you’re voting for or not, political reporters Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth give their pro tips for debate watchers.

Tweet This

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

When a political debate pops up on TV, do you immediately grab the remote or run for the door? Or do you pop some popcorn?

No matter which category you fall under, these debates are important. And next time that debate comes on, we’ve got some things you might want to keep in mind while you (hopefully) watch.

This week, all major Republican candidates for governor met on stage for the first time. It was a debate hosted by WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids.

WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth talk about what happened at that debate, and about whether these debates are worth paying attention to. Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

Neher and Roth also give their pro tips for debate watchers. What should voters watch for in these debates?

Watch for unrehearsed/impromptu moments

Pay attention when they start to get tripped up,” says Roth. “Were they asked a question that they’re just not necessarily prepared to answer. Is that an issue that you really want your candidate to be able to answer?

Look for questions they don’t have a specific plan to address

Do I need my candidate to be able to answer that question with more than just some sort of lofty idea?” says Roth.

Read the fact checks!

Even if you have a great (debate) moderator… it’s very hard, on-the-fly, to do a real comprehensive fact check on the stage right there,” says Neher. “Read after you watch.”

There are a number of publications doing fact checks during the campaign, including Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad.

Make the debate watching experience fun, somehow.

Look, we get it. These debates can be sometimes be boring, pedantic, and exasperating — sometimes all at the same time. But they’re important. So try to find a way to make it fun. 

Some Lansing insiders have suggested debate-watching activities that make use of certain libations that should be consumed responsibly:

If that’s not your thing, get some friends together to make a game of bingo out of it. Or just follow some of your favorite politicos on social media and add your voice to the conversation. Chase those retweets or ‘likes’ with intelligent and funny insights or questions — with maybe a pinch of snark here and there.

Learn more about all the candidates for governor here.

Jake Neher, Producer, Detroit Today

Jake Neher is a producer and reporter for Detroit Today. He has formerly reported on the Michigan legislature. Follow @GJNeher

Cheyna Roth, Reporter

Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She’s also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films. Follow @Cheyna_R

Detroit Journalism Cooperative

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



 2018 Elections in Michigan

This post is a part of 2018 Elections in Michigan.

On November 6, Michigan voters will decide who will be the state's new governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Some state House and Senate seats are up for grabs, and numerous initiatives are expected on ballots.

WDET is committed to providing honest, fair, inclusive coverage of Michigan's 2018 elections. Join us now and all the way to the voting booth to be an informed voter.



This post is a part of MichMash.

Each week, WDET's Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio's Cheyna Roth un-jumble Michigan issues and talk about how statewide news stories affect you. 

Stay connected to Detroit