Live-Tweets from Northeastern During the First Presidential Debate 2016

This evening was the first presidential debate of the 2016 election. My goal was to live tweet the event in addition to the context of the audience in the Northeastern auditorium. All day I spent my breaks setting up my Twitter, following additional relevant accounts, and reading tips for live-tweeting an event for the first time. Among the dozens of tweets from reporters and news outlets about the ’11 possible outcomes of the debate’ and the ‘pre-debate polling numbers,’ was a tweet from Vox.com with an article questioning the effectiveness of the debates.

The article suggested that rather than doing formal debates, the candidates go through a crisis simulation which would show the true merits of each candidate as a potential president of the United States.

I arrived at Blackman Auditorium around 8:30, giving me plenty of time to get a seat in the middle of the room towards the back. By 9 o’clock when the debate was starting, the room was packed. I spent the first 5 minutes or so attempting to get any useful photo to show the scene without luck, then I settled in to listen.

From the first time each candidate spoke, I could not ignore the stark contrast in the ways that they spoke and expressed themselves. The contrast between Clinton and Trump was just as noticeable in the disproportionate cheering coming from Northeastern’s audience.

As I listened to the questions and answers on screen and the laughter, mumbles, and cheers from the audience, I was also keeping up-to-date with my Twitter feed. Many of the sites that I was following were doing live fact-checking, while individuals commented on the numerous soundbites and the temperament of the candidates.

Others noted the moderator Lester Holt’s restraint in participating in the debate. He allowed the candidates to interact with each other and respond to each other however respectfully they chose, or didn’t. His attempts at fact-checking Donald Trump were all but drowned out by the candidate, but were made regardless.

While the majority of the roughly hour and a half was focused on the economy and foreign affairs, there were some deviations such as a short segment on racial disparities and police violence in America. Trump didn’t go into many details as to how he would combat the problems that black Americans face across the country. He simply stated that we need to stop the violence and bring back law and order. This was before the controversial stop-and-frisk policy was brought up and celebrated by Trump.

There was a big show of support for Hillary Clinton from the crowd at Northeastern when she acknowledged that having biases towards others is something that everybody must deal with during their lives. Conversely, the biggest reaction that Trump got was resounding laughter.

While Trump spent much of his speaking time babbling and recalling personal anecdotes about “that one time when he was sitting down with Howard Stern,” Clinton was able to maintain her composure and speak clearly on the issues laid out for them both. The Northeastern students and community members seemed to lean more heavily towards Hillary Clinton based on the volume of the cheering, though there appeared to be a cluster of Trump supporters as well on the right side in the back.

Twitter is clearly an invaluable tool when reporting on the presidential debates. Throughout the event, I had my phone open and Twitter on my screen, constantly refreshing and reading the latest commentary and fact-checks on what the candidates were saying. It’s possible that the biggest drawback to live tweeting an event like a presidential debate is, in fact, the overflow of information that’s available. To be able to watch the debate, take note of the audience, read the commentary, and formulate meaningful and substantial tweets takes focus and stamina. I’m looking forward to the next debate and continuing to hone my skills as a ‘tweeter’.

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