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In this second week of the U.S. Government shutdown, my husband and I continually flip between CNN and Fox – noticing how two different media outlets can interpret the same events completely differently, showcase one event more than another, and simply manipulate the conversation to their particular bias.

So I wasn’t terribly surprised when I ran across a new term – the “CNN panel effect”- in a thoughtful essay by David Suissa about our predilection of casting labels in these kinds of political discussions.

Which begs the question: What is the “CNN panel effect?”  It’s when a handful of pundits sit around a table and discuss a topical issue, with a limited amount of time to weigh in, be heard, and make a snappy point.  Usually it starts with a polite, “Thanks for having me here,” and goes downhill from there.  Challenged to make their point in a short period of time, to counter the points from the other panelists, it often turns into a shouting match, vying for coveted airtime.

Suissa makes an interesting point in his article:  “When a handful of pundits sit around a table to discuss complicated issues, and they have under a minute to make a snappy point, how likely are they to capture nuance? The best we can hope for is that panelists will plant seeds of complexity that the viewer will be encouraged to investigate.”

Since when did we shift from thoughtful conversation about meaty issues to a shouting free for all? 

Yes, panels discuss complex issues and panelists are bound to be passionate about their positions.  But can’t we be civil in the conversation?

Suissa continues: “First, while I value passion, I also value inner struggle. I was hoping one of the panelists would have captured the complexity of the debate itself. In the heat of the moment, however, there was little room for self-doubt. Certainty ruled.”

Perhaps, just perhaps in this New Year we can give a little grace and space for differences of opinions as we all try to peel back the many layers of nuance during our panel discussions.


Related Articles:

Moderators, Are You Over-preparing Your Panelists?

How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion Tip #161 with Mark Sanborn: What To Do With a Hyper Panelist

For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.



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Kristin ArnoldKristin Arnold
KRISTIN ARNOLD, MBA, CSP, CPF|Master has been facilitating meaningful conversations between executives and managers to make better decisions and achieve extraordinary results for 25+ years. She's a leading authority on moderating panel discussions and passionate about finding the perfect olive to complement a vodka martini.
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