ALA, CPD promote DebateWatch in libraries

Contact: Steve Zalusky

Manager, Communications

ALA Public Information Office



For Immediate Release

September 23, 2008

CHICAGO – For the fourth consecutive presidential election, the American Library Association (ALA) will team up with the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) to promote the CPD’s DebateWatch initiative.

DebateWatch is a voter education program that brings citizens together to watch televised presidential debates, discuss them and share their reactions with the CPD.

“The CPD is proud to have the ALA as a voter education partner again this year. The ALA, with its almost 65,000 members, perfectly embodies the notions of civic engagement and education, the two principles that stand at the heart of the CPD’s mission,” said CPD Executive Director Janet Brown.

“The role of libraries in our democracy is becoming more important. They are modern community centers for information and education,” said ALA President Jim Rettig. “Our goal is to see that all Americans have the information they need to live, learn and work.”

Libraries will participate in DebateWatch by hosting events for students; encouraging library patrons to host DebateWatch events in their homes; preparing a list of resources about election issues; promoting each DebateWatch event through newsletters, campus newspapers, flyers, local media and the library’s Web site; and maintaining a community bulletin board on their computer system where people can discuss issues before and after each DebateWatch event.

In addition, the CPD has formed an Internet educational partnership with MySpace for the 2008 general election debates. Paul G. Kirk, Jr. and Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., CPD co-chairmen, said, “The CPD believes that the Internet can be used to personalize the debates in a way that allows for in-depth examination by individual citizens and joint discussion with others.” They continued, “Citizens can submit questions to for possible inclusion in the town meeting debate, and offer feedback on the new debate formats that will explore a smaller number of topics for longer periods of time.” features video streaming, on-demand playback and archival material. Users can register during the period before the first presidential debate on Friday, Sept. 26. Subsequent debates will take place on October 2 (vice presidential debate), October 7 (town meeting), and October 15 (third presidential debate).

The first Presidential debate will be held at the University of Mississippi, Oxford, Miss. It will be moderated by Jim Lehrer, executive editor and anchor of PBS’ The NewsHour.

The ALA Washington Office is excited to promote the civic engagement of the library community in this historic election year by encouraging individuals to submit questions online at for possible inclusion in the Town Hall Presidential Debate.

To find out how you can host a DebateWatch event in your library, please visit