Monday, March 20, 2006

NYT badly overstates success of Liberty University Debate team

A lot of people have been e-mailing around the recent new york times article that identifies Liberty University, run by Jerry Falwell, as having the best debating team in the country.

The most interesting thing about modern Lynchburg is that Liberty consistently produces one of the nation's great collegiate debate programs. This season Liberty is closing in on an unprecedented sweep — first place in the rankings in all three national college debate groups: the American Debate Association, the Cross Examination Debate Association and the National Debate Tournament.

You'll notice that they don't include the American Parlimentary Debate Association. Liberty has only been successful at "policy debate" which is one of the three major variants common in the US. The other two Lincoln Douglas and Parliamentary require a good deal more rhetorical skill. Parliamentary debate, which i competed in for several semesters while at Brown is by far the most creative. I was a successful policy debater in philadelphia. most top-notch policy debates come down to who can speak faster rather than follow any particular through to its conclusion. Many policy debaters use a technique in which they make as many arguments as they can as quickly as possible in the hopes that the opponents will forget to counter one or run out of time. this should hardly be thought of as a "debate" in the normal usage. That's why this article is misleading. When the article says that liberty is:

first place in the rankings in all three national college debate groups

This phrasing blatantly disregards the other debate forms. Brown, for instance, doesn't even bother to field a policy team as that type of debate is so much less interesting and demanding.

Any good journalist would have discussed the Liberty team with a debater from one of the schools they get this press for consistently beating. Harvard is mentioned by name. I assume any debater at harvard would have told a reporter that in fact, there are several types of debate, and Liberty's team only appears to be successful at one of them. Any decent college debater would have been able to discuss the differences between parliamentary, L&D, and policy/cross-ex debate. it is therefore reasonable to assume that the articles writer, Zev Chafets, received this information. If that is correct, what he has done is sensationalist purposefully misleading work. Alternatively, Chafets may just be incompetent.

All this makes me wonder why the New York Times is in such a hurry to print misleading areticles about the success of evangelicals. A pair of possibilities:
  • the NYT is responding to the old allegations of media bias
  • the NYT know that Jews are very interested in chiristian evangelicals and that sensationalist portrayls are interesting to a large segment of their subscirber base.
what do y'all think?
does the NYT indeed run more articles on evangelicals?
If so, why?


At 3/20/2006 , Blogger BZ said...

The Times's public editor recently wrote about the "conservative beat". This may be an explanation.

At 3/23/2006 , Blogger ZT said...

hmm, i thought something like that may have happened. i'll check it out. thanks for the link.


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