Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Oh, and another thing about debates....

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The cutaways are the killers.Cutaways are the shots of politicians in televised debates when they are listening, not debating. These shots have been known to completely scuttle an otherwise successful debate.1999 Manitoba election. CBC Television hosts a debate between Premier Gary Filmon, NDP Leader Gary Doer and Liberal Leader Jon Gerrard. The lingering memory for me is the horrible expression on Filmon's face as he listened to Doer. It was a mix of nausea and homicidal rage.For those of you lucky enough to catch the first presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama,did you notice the striking difference in strategy for the cutaways?Obama was cool and calm and whenever McCain was talking the trash, he was looking down, scribbling on his pad, waiting his chance to respond. When he looked up, he had a quiet, confident expression.McCain, on the other hand, looked at Obama with a quirky grin on his face. Then he shook his head, and looked at the moderator with a combination of plaintiff anxiety and fear. Overall, when he wasn't talking, he looked like a nine-year-old on a Ritalin withdrawal. Eyes darting all over the place, twitching as Obama beat him with the velvet hammer.If you're lucky enough to take in Thursday's English-language debate, watch for the cutaways and who is left looking like a nerd, and who looks like a warrior. With the "Knights of the Round Table" format instituted by the networks, this debate should generate a much greater cutaway factor.-30-

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About Dan Lett

Dan Lett came to Winnipeg in 1986, less than a year out of journalism school.

Despite the fact that he’s originally from Toronto and has a fatal attraction to the Maple Leafs, Winnipeggers let him stay.

In the following years, he has worked at bureaus covering every level of government – from city hall to the national bureau in Ottawa.

He has had bricks thrown at him in riots following the 1995 Quebec referendum, wrote stories that helped in part to free three wrongly convicted men, met Fidel Castro, interviewed three Philippine presidents, crossed several borders in Africa illegally, chased Somali pirates in a Canadian warship and had several guns pointed at him.

In other words, he’s had every experience a journalist could even hope for. He has also been fortunate enough to be a two-time nominee for a National Newspaper Award, winning in 2003 for investigations.

Other awards include the B’Nai Brith National Human Rights Media Award and nominee for the Michener Award for Meritorious Public Service in Journalism.

Now firmly rooted in Winnipeg, Dan visits Toronto often but no longer pines to live there.

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