What I don’t want to see during tonight’s debate

(Hint: tweets selected by ABC)

If you do plan on double screening tonight, be sure to follow GovExec Editor Tom Shoop’s live blogging about federal issues on and tweets from . We’ll also be tweeting from if there’s any tech discussion, but . 

My colleague Bob Brewin has put together an excellent list of items he’d like to see addressed during tonight’s town hall-style presidential debate at Hofstra University on Long Island.

I can’t match Bob’s sagacity, so I’ll just note what I’d rather not see: that stream of debate-focused tweets that popped up relentlessly around the corners of the ABC broadcasts of the first two presidential and vice presidential debates.

(No I can’t just change the channel. I don’t own a television so I’m limited to the ABC broadcast that streams on YouTube).

The Twitter stream isn’t just irritating and distracting. It’s also wrongheaded. The point of social media is that it’s social. A tweet about the debate isn’t valuable merely because it exists -- the criteria ABC seems to be working with. It’s valuable because it comes from someone whose opinions and expertise I respect or because it flowed from a community I care about.

If I want to know what people whose opinion I value are tweeting about the debate tonight I know right where to find them -- on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or a handful of blogs.

About one in 10 viewers tuned into the first presidential debate with a TV screen showing the live debate and a computer screen tracking blogs and social media, according to a study by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. For the other 9/10 of live debate viewers, I promise nothing was added to the experience by knowing one random tweeter we’d never heard of thought Romney was killing it and another thought he was spewing lies.

Broadcast media is great at doing just that: broadcasting. So here’s hoping tonight they clear the clutter off the screen and focus on delivering us the opinions of the two people we’re all interested in hearing from: President Obama and Mitt Romney.

Fedblog@govexec@nextgovdon’t hold your breath