This article is based on contributions from OffTheBus community members who participated in this week's call out. The full byline of contributors appears below.
In an assessment coordinated by HuffPost's OffTheBus, almost 100 citizen journalists viewed post-debate coverage across the nation, looking to see how local broadcast journalists reported on the much-anticipated vice presidential faceoff. The OffTheBus reporters wrote that local news analysts echoed national analysts in suggesting Palin exceeded expectations and that she appeared to have recovered from the stumbling performances she gave in interviews last week. The same local journalists reported that Biden clearly knew more and spoke more easily on the issues.
Local broadcasts also reported on Palin's self-consciously informal language, soundbites of which they repeatedly played, and on Biden's emotional reflection on the death of his first wife and his daughter. Most surprising to many observers was Palin's view that the powers and responsibilities of the vice presidency should be expanded along the lines adopted by Dick Cheney.
On WNET, the local New York PBS station, Sara from Millburn, NJ, quoted Michael Beschloss's description of Gov. Sarah Palin's performance as "Gidget goes to Washington."
On the same program, John Harris said definitely, "Biden won the debate."
Most local media and television viewers who watched the debate agreed with Harris as the CNN/Opinion Research Poll reported 51 percent thought Biden did the best job compared to Palin's 36 percent.
"[Palin] doesn't know anything and she doesn't answer questions. She's ditzy," said one student at the University of Pennsylvania when interviewed on Fox29 News as reported by OTB member Channing. Philadelphia is firmly in the Obama-Biden grasp and Pennsylvania is lining-up in the Blue column.
The news clip played by Fox29 featured Joe Biden's 'Bridge to Nowhere' quote, which was replayed on local television stations across the country. It was one of the memorable quotes of the debate, part of Biden's detailed response to Palin's explanation of the McCain health care plan, which according to the senior senator from Delaware, "[Voters] are going to have to replace a $12,000 plan [paid by employers] with a $5,000 check you give to the insurance company. I call that the 'Ultimate Bridge to Nowhere'."
Local television station presenters and their sidekick 'experts' agreed that Palin didn't fall on her sword during the debates and successfully stopped the blood flow after her disastrous network interviews with CBS's Katie Couric and ABC's Charlie Gibson.
Susi from Narragansett tuned into Rhode Island's WLNE and heard Providence's former mayor Buddy Cianci (charged with corruption and jailed for five years) tell viewers that "the debate leaned toward Palin" because she didn't flail or blunder. He made reference to her "white flag" comment as "sort of victory for her."
John Deluca agreed with Cianci, saying he was surprised by Palin's good performance. He said Biden was "lawyerly and senatorial," that he failed to address the audience, speaking exclusively to the moderator. Palin, on the other hand, he saw as "very smart" in that she "spoke directly to the camera, to 'small town America' and connected with them."
Another favorite clip was Biden's strong reaction to Palin's touting Mccain as a longtime independent thinker. "John McCain is no maverick," Biden said after a forceful summary of McCain's positions on "all the things that matter" to people gathered around their dinner tables.
Our citizen reporters told us that several of their local televisions stations replayed Palin's response to Biden's approach to ending the Iraq War.
"Your plan is a white flag of surrender in Iraq and that is not what our troops need to hear today, that's for sure. And it's not what our nation needs to be able to get on. You guys opposed the surge. The surge worked. Barack Obama still can't admit the surge works."
Despite the weird grammar, Deluca gave Palin a thumbs up after the hearing this statement, "Wow, she landed that one, huh?"
Susi wrote that "Many voted for Bush; not enough folks came out for Kerry. Bush had that 'everyday guy angle, which Palin has made such a staple of her public persona. My fear is that people will once again replace that for wisdom..."
Daniel from Brisbane, Australia, watched the debate on Australian Broadcasting Corp. and quoted that network's North American correspondent Mark Simkin, who said Palin was "very folksy, very charming, while Biden was not nearly as inspiring."
Style versus substance was one of the major differences between these two candidates during the debate that nearly all local media keyed in on, generally agreeing that Palin won on style but Biden beat her on substance.
Dennis from Charlottesville, VA watched WVIR, NBC 29. All three WVIR pundits -- Annie Scholz, Steve Rappaport, and Steve Handelsman -- admitted neither candidate won or embarrassed themselves, but concluded that the "folksy introduction" from Palin was a good move.
This view was echoed widely by the national networks.
WVIR chose to broadcast the Palin clip on the causes of global warming:
"I'm not one to attribute every man -- activity of man to the changes in the climate -- it is something to be said also for man's activities, but also for the cyclical temperature changes on our planet...I don't want to argue about [the causes of] it....We have got to clean up this planet...."
Immediately after Palin's clip, WVIR played Biden's reaction clip:
"Well, I think it [global warming] is manmade. I think it's clearly manmade. And, look, this probably explains the biggest fundamental difference between John McCain and Barack Obama and Sarah Palin and Joe Biden ...If you don't understand what the cause is, it's virtually impossible to come up with a solution. We know what the cause is. The cause is manmade. That's the cause..."
Score one two for both candidates. They were speaking to their bases, saying exactly what their hardcore voters want to hear, though the remaining 8% of Independents hold the presidency in their hands.
Dennis reported that he is one of the 'new voters' in Virginia that are helping to turn a former Red state Blue in 2008, primarily because of the "growth of Virginia and the younger, more ethnically and culturally diverse population settling there."
Palin and Biden duked it out when it came to vying for the working and middle-class voters. The term 'middle class' was repeated 9 times in this debate as the two opposing camps lobbed verbal slams, each promising 'change' to hard-pressed voters.
A handful of OffTheBus reporters said that the same "Main Street" clips were featured in their post-debate summaries. Thad from Richman, VA, reported that those were the clips local WRIC, hosted by Christian Feerick, featured to start its coverage.
"...We're going to change the [economic] focus to the middle class, because when the middle class is growing, the economy is growing and everybody does well...I was recently at my local gas station and asked a guy named Joey Danco. I said, "Joey, how much did it cost to fill up the tank?" You know what his answer was? He said, "I don't know Joe, I never have enough money to do it...The middle class needs relief, tax relief. They need it now. They need help now. The focus will change with Barack Obama."
"One thing that American do at this time, also, though, is let's commit ourselves just every day [to the] American people; Joe Six Pack, hockey moms across the nation, I think we need to band together and say never again. Never will we be exploited and taken advantage of again..."
In Milwaukee, WI, Independent voter and off-the-bus contributor Janell reviewed three local television post-debate shows -- CBS-WDJT 58, NBC-WTMJ 4, ABC WISN 12 -- and found the ABC coverage professional and balanced, where both Democratic and Republican activists were interviewed and each party loyalist gave their candidates good score cards.
Janell's review sounded a familiar tune last night. The Republican voters were happy Palin revived her sinking reputation and Democrats hailed Biden for his solid though less inspiring performance.
In another battleground state, Mary from Danville, WV, watching WSAZ in Charleston, hosted by Tim Irr and Jessica Ralston, reported her talking heads described Palin "as someone who had come across as uninformed in recent interviews, but not tonight!"
WSAZ joined the majority of hometown media mavens who agreed that Palin did herself and her sinking ticket some good in last night's debate.
Michele from Merrick, NY, watched WNYW, Fox 5 News when reporter Dick Brennan spoke with Professor Jeannie Zaino from Iona College and they both agreed that "Biden and Palin came off looking pretty good."
WNYW's clips included the 'white flag surrender' Palin sound bite and Biden's charge that "John [McCain] said the fundamentals in our econmy are strong." Another clip showed Palin responding to Biden's charge by saying, "John McCain was referring to America's strong workforce when he said (two weeks ago) that the economy's fundamentals were strong."
Professor Zaino also found interesting the emotional moment at the end of the debate when Biden chocked up while speaking about being a single parent, stating, "that in this election where gender has played a key role, it was interesting that Biden showed emotion."
Both candidates were trying to associate themselves with average people though in the end, "it wasn't a game changer" according to our reports.
Overall, many felt the debate was livelier than the McCain-Obama debate, but there was no clear winner, which is the conclusion Patrick from Shawnee, KS, reported when Michael Mahoney, presenter for KMBC summarized, "Palin did better than predicted, but it's a draw."
Palin won the style battle with her folksy colloquialisms -- "You Betcha!, Say it ain't So, Joe!, Heck'of a lot, Dog Gone Right! Shout it out!" -- and her energetic performance. She held her base but did she grab any Independents? Doubtful, though she emotionally connected better with the audience than Biden.
Biden won on the substance. There wasn't a hint of sexism by Biden in this gender charged election season and generally, both veep candidates kept to hitting the other's ticket tops rather than getting personal. Biden only had to avoid gaffes and local media accounts suggest he did that.
Win or lose, a vice president rarely determines who wins the White House and with momentum surging toward Obama, this debate isn't likely to change any minds or votes.
Additional reporting by John Achoukian, Terry L. Aldershof, Tania I. Arias, La Shanda Armstrong, Christian Avard, Carole Bannes, Channing Benson, Melissa Bigg, Dave Bills, Eben Brooks, Theresa Bruskin, Tim Bubel, Kellie Cameron, Frank A. Campbell, Veola Carter, Janell Carter, Josh Chernila, Carol Clark, Gwen Cooper, Patrick Coughlin, Ethan Cruze, Derek Daniels, Rusel DeMaria, Kris DiGioanni, Carol Dobson, Patrick Eraikhuemen, Carol Evenson, Susi Franco, James M. Fullerton, Michael Ganino Jr., Gwendolyn Gaumond, Dan Goor, Sam Greenfield, Melissa Hapke, Jesse P. Hapke, Pamela Kay Hawkins, Randy Hayton Nannette Isler, M.D., Jody Jameson, Janiak, Mary Jarrell, Donna Joseph, Karen Kasold, Paul Kellogg, Kim Kop, Jodi Lampert, Sandra L. Larsen, Sara Lazarus, Steve LeMay, Michelle Levine, Joe Lombardo, Carlos Luis, Paula Mays, Ben Mishkin, E. Joyce Moore, Riley Murray, Georgianne Nienaber, Jacqueline Noguera, Nicole Parker, Gretchen Peck, Lorraine Petrosky, Heidi Pickman, Ann Powers, Fred Ratliff, Jon Raymond, Ruth Rendely, Ellen Riley, Alfredo de la Rosa, Elizabeth Rose, Dr. Barbara Schlachet, Dixie Schock, Dennis J. Seese, Sandra Skolnik, David Slavick, Daniel Smith, Paul Solyn, David Lawrence Stein, Paul Stravinsky, Erika Szostak, Diane Taber-Markiewicz, Erik Tkal, Eric Vos, Gale Walden, Rose Waldschmidt, Beverly Wayne, Ann Weber, Rachel Webster, Lynda Wells, Thad Willliamson, Deirdre Wyeth, Jillian C. York