As Democratic candidates debate, Internet Archive will be gathering data

When Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders take the podium tonight along with other contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, their debate will be televised. The Television Archive will be tracking the news coverage surrounding the debate, viewable and searchable, here.

And this tool, developed by political scientist Kalev Leetaru  and fueled by Internet Archive data, allows users to see how many times a particular candidate’s name is mentioned in news coverage. Going into the debate, Hillary Clinton is getting more than twice as mentions as Sen. Bernie Sanders.

We take for granted that candidates will debate on screen, but it wasn’t always so. The faceoff between Republican Vice President Richard Nixon and Democrat U.S. Senator Jack Kennedy in 1960, 55 years ago last month, marked the first time that Americans were able to watch candidates for the nation’s highest office from the comfort of their living rooms. You can see part one of the debate here, preserved on the Archive’s servers:

The received wisdom about this famous debate was that, from this point on, candidates had to think not just about what they said on the campaign stump, but how they looked. This could make a huge difference in how the public and the media perceived who “won” the debate. Nixon looked tired and like he needed a shave. Kennedy looked healthy and vibrant. Those who listened on the radio thought Nixon won.

“It’s one of those unusual points in the timeline of history where you say things changed very dramatically–in this case, in a single night,” Alan Schroeder, a media historian and associate professor at Northeastern University, told Time Magazine in 2010.

Here’s part II of the Kennedy-Nixon 1960 debate:

We don’t know yet who the perceived winner of tonight’s debate will be. The Internet Archive’s data will provide one way to evaluate this. Stay tuned.

About nancyw

Nancy Watzman is Managing Editor, Television Archive.
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