“From wherever you stood, the opposing side offered respectable, credible views. In today's fractured culture the evening struck a blow for civility.”
- The Huffington Post
January 29, 2016
Our presidential debate moderators are stuck in an impossible position: Either they allow candidates to spin and not give real answers to questions, or, when they interrupt and insist on a genuine response, they're interpreted as having a personal agenda. The results are a politicized public, a suspicious pool of candidates, and the loss of a democratic forum. John Donvan, moderator of the Intelligence Squared U.S. debates, has proposed an alternate debate format to fix the current circus that are our presidential debates: an Oxford-style debate, or parliamentary debate, where a topic is set for the entire evening and candidates take a "for" or "against" position. This format keeps candidates from fearing "gotcha" questions, allows moderators to enter the debate without fear of reprisal, and preserves what is intended to be a uniquely democratic forum.
January 11, 2016
I used to think podcasts were… not for me. But recently, I’ve been blown away with their ability to expand my horizons. Podcasts can go places other forms of entertainment (and that other e word, education) can’t: you can listen to them on your commute or as you’re falling asleep at night (no disruptive blue light!).
10. IQ2 – Intelligence Squared debates will make you A LOT smarter.
November 05, 2015
We are now four debates into the 2016 presidential campaign, and the emerging consensus is that the format stinks. Yes, there may be some entertaining moments, but nobody seems happy with the status quo.
Now that the Republican candidates are reevaluating how the debates should operate, I humbly propose four alternatives to the weird and generally hostile group interview process so in vogue right now:
1. Crisis simulations
2. Oxford-style issue debates
3. Candidates submit the questions
4. Inter-league play
Oxford-style issue debates
If it's debates we want, it's debates we should have. But what we have now are not actual debates.
For example, we could apply the Intelligence Squared [U.S.] Oxford-style debate format. Split up candidates into teams of two, depending on where they come down on various issues. Then let them debate an issue that divides them: "Resolved: We should voucherize Medicare"; Resolved: "We should have a 10 percent flat tax"; Resolved: "We should engage more aggressively in Syria."
Let the candidates actually debate an issue over the course of 30 to 45 minutes, getting into enough depth to meaningfully help voters actually understand it. Such a format would also clarify who actually understands the issues and who does not.
The Intelligence Squared [U.S.] format is nice because while it is moderated, it also allows debaters to ask some questions of one another. And it has a simple format for declaring a winner. The audience is pre-polled. The side that wins is the side that moves the audience in one direction or the other.
A network could make this into a weekly program for the next several months, cycling through the different candidates in various pairings.
August 26, 2015
Best of Enemies celebrates the dawn of intellectual debate in mass media. Intelligence Squared U.S. celebrates its continued relevance.
August 15, 2015
Recently, political discussions relegated to cable news anchors and Twitter feeds have come to share a common criticism of lacking intelligent, nuanced debate. There's even a new documentary, "Best of Enemies," that looks back at the 1968 TV debates between William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal during the Democratic and Republican conventions with a nostalgic eye. The end of the film laments the current state of the news, which mimics the combativeness of the Buckley-Vidal debates without achieving the same intellectual quality.
While the film did a fine job — balancing the events of the time and the personalities of the two debaters — it's unfair to dismiss the (albeit rare) high-quality political back-and-forth of today, even if without the once-in-a-generation magical reputation of the Buckley-Vidal debates.
If you're hungry for arguments more comprehensive than what's offered at presidential debates, feast on one of these five programs:
1. Intelligence Squared U.S.
August 02, 2015
John Donvan has made a career out of staying calm—and staying on topic. A veteran ABC News correspondent, he’s now the moderator of Intelligence Squared U.S., a series of Oxford-style debates on the most controversial issues of the day. In this week’s episode, Donvan tells Aisha Harris why a successful debate starts with a good question and why a moderator must learn the art of interruption.
June 29, 2015
Rosenkranz's most prominent effort in the area of public affairs is non-partisan in nature—Intelligence Squared U.S., a debate series based on a successful London-based program. Created in 2006, Intelligence Squared U.S. has presented over 100 debates on a wide range of topics from clean energy to the Middle East and is broadcast on over 220 NPR radio stations.
June 24, 2015
For the third consecutive year, Intelligence Squared U.S. has been honored for excellence in radio and podcast programming by the New York Festivals International Radio Programs & Promos Awards.
On Monday night, IQ2US was announced as the 2015 winner of the Silver Radio Award for Best Public Affairs Program and the Bronze Radio Award for Best Regularly Scheduled Talk Program by New York Festivals.
Currently broadcast on over 220 public radio stations nationwide, Intelligence Squared U.S. was selected from entries from over 30 countries by a Grand Jury of industry leaders worldwide, recognizing the series as the “World's Best Work in Programming.”
Founded in 2006 and recorded in front of a live audience in New York City, Intelligence Squared U.S. has grown into a unique multi-platform experience – spanning live events, radio, television, podcasts, and digital and social media – that is heard and watched by millions internationally. With more than 4.5 million podcast downloads in the last year, Intelligence Squared U.S. has become one of NPR's most popular public affairs podcasts, and praised by Forbes as one of "Five Podcasts that Will Change the Way You Think."
The series has attracted the world's top thinkers including Paul Krugman, Steve Forbes, Karl Rove, Malcolm Gladwell, Alan Dershowitz, Peter Thiel, and Arianna Huffington, among 450 other influential thought leaders. IQ2US has produced more than 100 debates on a wide range of provocative topics, including global warming, genetically engineered babies, a nuclear Iran, the financial crisis, the marketing of organic foods, and the death of mainstream media.
In addition to monthly live events from New York City’s Kaufman Center, IQ2US has hosted debates in premiere intellectual spaces, including the Aspen Ideas Festival, Chicago Ideas Week, and the National Constitution Center. Debates have been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Men's Health, Forbes, and panelists have appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the series' timely propositions.
ABC News correspondent John Donvan is the moderator, and the executive producer is Dana Wolfe. Intelligence Squared U.S. was founded by Robert Rosenkranz and Alexandra Munroe.
May 28, 2015
Intelligence Squared U.S., a program based on a highly successful debate program in London, allows viewers to rethink their point-of-view on many important world issues. The program, initiated by the Rosenkranz Foundation operated by Robert Rosenkranz, has presented over 100 debates on provocative and current events that are the subject of conversation around the world.
May 21, 2015
[Greg] Lukianoff is not willing to throw up his arms and throw in the towel. He writes:
I am constantly on the lookout for potential cures for this problem. Litigation plays an important role in the fight, as does having students engage in proper Oxford-style debates (like we see today in the Intelligence Squared series). Comedians and satirists may also join the pushback against the infinite care ethic; after all, it is blazingly clear that politically correct censorship and comedy are natural enemies. And, of course, nothing can replace teaching students at every level of education that old-fashion intellectual habits of epistemic humility, giving others benefit of the doubt, and actually listening to opposing opinions.
May 21, 2015
Q: You seemed to argue at an intelligence squared debate, that the US cannot be the world police anymore. How does this notion fit into your idea of an Indispensable America?
Bremmer: I did argue that (though they assign you the position... and any good debater should be able to analytically handle that). But I think Indispensable America is becoming much more challenging. US allies are less capable/willing to support. US adversaries are more willing to challenge. And the willingness of the American people to pay the tab in blood and treasure is decreasing. I'd be much more comfortable with Indispensable America if I believed we could actually follow through on it.
April 01, 2015
This April Fool’s week, I implore you to prank your friends, family, and even yourself in the best way possible: challenge a deeply-held belief. I highly recommend one of the lively debates put on by Intelligence Squared US. More than 100 debates are archived with both video and audio at intelligencesquaredus.org with provocative topics ranging from “when it comes to politics, the Internet is closing our minds,” to “embrace the Common Core,” “the rich are taxed enough,” “legalize assisted suicide,” and “liberals are stifling intellectual diversity on campus.”
February 26, 2015
Intelligence Squared U.S. is an Oxford-style debate series covering a range of relevant controversial topics, from science refuting God to “too big to fail” big banks. The series recently celebrated its 100th debate, and Utne Reader editorial intern Soli Salgado had an opportunity to talk with moderator John Donvan beforehand about how the topics develop, the challenges of moderating, and preserving the integrity of the ancient art of debate.
Utne Reader: How has previous reporting for ABC News helped you as a moderator?
John Donvan: I had 30 years of ABC and did virtually every beat there was: I was a foreign correspondent for 13 years, came back and worked as a general assignment reporter, then as the White House correspondent. In the course of all that, at some point or other I covered every printed story there ever was, sometimes three times over, and that really gave me a broad range: from economy to religion to poverty to race science to medicine to health to politics and international conflicts. We haven’t really had a debate where I haven’t covered the issue in some fashion or other. We just had a debate on genetically modified food, and I did a broadcast on that in 1999. The debate before that was on assisted suicide, and I had done a one-hour documentary on that in 1994. It’s like a perfect repurposing of my entire body of knowledge gained from my career as an ABC reporter.
December 18, 2014
We asked WNYC staffers to pick their single favorite podcast episode of the year, whether it came from inside our building or across an ocean. These are our chosen ones. Tell us yours!
Intelligence Squared: Is Death Final?
A high-brow debate show takes on the afterlife. That about says it.
-Paula Szuchman, Senior Director, Digital Content
November 24, 2014
We know the feeling: you feel uninformed about a story in the news, or a pop culture phenomena, or just have questions about the world that have never been answered. Podcasts are here to the rescue. Podcasts are great because you can listen to them while you’re at the gym, driving, on the train, mowing the lawn, hand-washing your laundry, or any other task that can be enhanced with audio knowledge.
We put together a list of our favorite podcasts that have made us smarter, separated them out into groups based on content. We also put together a 2x2, mapping each podcast across two axes: lighthearted vs. serious and looking smarter in front of friends vs. being smarter in your personal life.
November 13, 2014
Since 2006, Robert Rosenkranz has been working on elevating public debate in this country. His project is a program called Intelligence Squared (IQ2), a debate series among equals structured to solicit genuine arguments.
September 30, 2014
Wednesday's column is about the state of podcasting, so I'm offering here a list of the podcasts I currently subscribe to.
Intelligence Squared US Debates -- "One motion, one moderator, two panelists for the motion and two against. From clean energy and the financial crisis, to the Middle East and the death of mainstream media, Intelligence Squared U.S. brings together the world's leading authorities on the day's most important issues. (25th in iTunes)
May 04, 2014
Those with an interest in invective-free debates among experts should check out the "Intelligence Squared" series at intelligencesquaredus.org.
March 05, 2014
With an extensive background in politics and an eclectic résumé to impress any mover and shaker—including a handful of Emmy awards won during her time at ABC News Nightline and a highly respected NPR show, Intelligence Squared U.S. journalist and producer S. Dana Wolfe talks education, politics, and how women may be predisposed to getting ahead.
October 30, 2013
Intelligence Squared U.S. Debates is the first online broadcast to showcase FORA.tv's new live, in-tweet video player.
The new FORA.tv video player will play live streams and on-demand video directly in tweets; Intelligent Squared U.S. will use the capability to share tonight’s live streamed debate directly with their Twitter followers.
"We're excited to partner with FORA.tv to present our debates live on Twitter, viewable in real time," said Clea Chang, Director of Marketing and Digital Strategy for Intelligence Squared U.S. "With Twitter's powerful network effects, we can expand our audience and further raise the level of public discourse online.”
“We are proud to join a select group of approved providers that have the capability to present live and on-demand video streams within the Twitter platform,” said Blaise Zerega, President and CEO of FORA.tv. “This capability enables our partners to broaden the reach of their conferences and event video with a click of the “Tweet” button. Now our partners can better capitalize on the existing Twitter chatter around their events and conferences by bringing the video directly to their Twitter followers.
FORA.tv, the leading provider of video production, online distribution and monetization services for the conference and event industry, today announced the capability to stream live and on-demand video within Twitter via the FORA.tv player. When a Twitter user shares a link to a live stream or on-demand video on FORA.tv, their followers will be able to watch the video directly in that tweet with the FORA.tv video player. This feature will be showcased during the live stream of today’s Intelligence Squared U.S. debate, “Let Anyone Take a Job Anywhere,” starting at 6:45 pm EDT.
The event can be viewed at intelligencesquaredus.fora.tv.
July 18, 2013
The 34th Annual Telly Awards has recognized Intelligence Squared U.S. with two awards in the Film & Video category: the Silver award for Live Events and the Bronze award for Political/Commentary. With nearly 12,000 entries from all 50 states and numerous countries, this is truly an honor.
Founded in 2006 and taped in front of a live audience in New York City, Intelligence Squared U.S. has grown into a unique multi-platform experience that spans live events, radio, television, podcasts, digital and social media that is heard and watched by millions internationally. Currently airing in nearly 80% of PBS and WORLD channel airing households across major markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston, the series also reaches viewers globally through its interactive streaming and video services on FORA.tv, Vimeo, and YouTube.
The Telly Awards was founded in 1979 and is the premier award honoring outstanding local, regional, and cable TV commercials and programs, the finest video and film productions, and online commercials, video and films. Winners represent the best work of the most respected advertising agencies, production companies, television stations, cable operators, and corporate video departments in the world.
A prestigious judging panel of over 500 accomplished industry professionals, each a past winner of a Silver Telly and a member of The Silver Telly Council, judged the competition, upholding the historical standard of excellence that Telly represents. The Silver Council evaluated entries to recognize distinction in creative work – entries do not compete against each other – rather entries are judged against a high standard of merit. Less than 10% of entries are chosen as Winners of the Silver Telly, our highest honor. Approximately 25% of entries are chosen as Winners of the Bronze Telly.
“The Telly Awards has a mission to honor the very best in film and video,” said Linda Day, Executive Director of the Telly Awards. “Intelligence Squared U.S.’s accomplishment illustrates their creativity, skill, and dedication to their craft, and serves as a testament to great film and video production.”
June 18, 2013
Intelligence Squared U.S. has been named the 2013 winner of the Silver Radio Award for Best Public Affairs Program at the New York Festivals International Radio Programs & Promos Awards. Currently broadcast on over 200 NPR stations nationwide, Intelligence Squared U.S. was selected from entries from over 36 countries by a Grand Jury of industry leaders worldwide, recognizing the series as the World's Best Work in Programming.
Founded in 2006 and taped in front of a live audience in New York City, Intelligence Squared U.S. has grown into a unique multi-platform experience that spans live events, radio, television, podcasts, digital and social media that is heard and watched by millions internationally. With close to 200,000 monthly subscribers, Intelligence Squared U.S. has become one of NPR's most popular public affairs podcasts, praised by Forbes as one of "Five Podcasts that Will Change the Way You Think." Currently airing in nearly 80% of PBS and WORLD channel airing households across major markets including New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Boston, the series also reaches viewers globally through its interactive streaming and video services on Fora TV, Vimeo, and YouTube.
Rose Anderson, Executive Director of New York Festivals International Radio Programs and Promos Awards said, "This year's New York Festivals Radio Awards Grand Jury of award-winning producers, writers, and programming executives from around the globe judged wide-reaching, complex, innovative and in-depth radio programs from around the world. The exceptional entry by Intelligence Squared U.S. raised the level of public discourse on some of the most divisive issues today and was honored with the NYF Silver Radio Deco Trophy for Best Public Affairs Program."
"Intelligence Squared U.S. is a shining example of public discourse at its best," said Eric Nuzum, VP of Programming at NPR. "A program like this could only thrive on public radio. We are elated to see this series recognized with this prestigious award."
The series has attracted some of the world's top thinkers including Paul Krugman, Steve Forbes, Karl Rove, Malcolm Gladwell, Alan Dershowitz, Peter Thiel and Arianna Huffington for 75 debates on a wide range of provocative topics including global warming, genetically engineered babies, science refuting religion, a nuclear Iran, the financial crisis, the marketing of organic foods, and the death of mainstream media.
In addition to monthly live events from NYC's Kaufman Center, IQ2US has recently hosted debates at premiere intellectual events, including the Aspen Ideas Festival, Chicago Ideas Week and will partner with The McCain Institute for International Leadership and The Aspen Strategy Group for inaugural debates this summer. Debates have been featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Men's Health, Forbes, and panelists appeared on MSNBC's Morning Joe and WNYC's The Brian Lehrer Show to discuss the series' timely propositions.
Intelligence Squared U.S. was founded by businessman and philanthropist Robert Rosenkranz. ABC News correspondent John Donvan is the moderator, and the executive producer is Dana Wolfe.
June 11, 2013
For Robert Rosenkranz, an investor and philanthropist who runs Delphi Financial Group, philanthropy doesn’t get more satisfying than Intelligence Squared U.S. (IQ2US).
Rosenkranz created the debate series in response to his frustration with what he saw as the lack of true public discourse in the United States. "In America there is no such thing as a real debate,'' he has said. So after receiving his favorite birthday present from his wife—a detailed report on different formats he could use to encourage civil discourse around controversial issues—Rosenkranz created IQ2US.
The program, based on London’s highly successful Intelligence Squared events, presents Oxford-style debates in New York on a wide range of provocative and timely topics, ranging from genetic engineering to the minimum wage to Pentagon funding. The debates also attract well-known participants, including an array of public figures such as Arianna Huffington and author Michael Crichton.
April 04, 2013
There is a place where the fine art of civilized and civil debate is making a comeback. Intelligence Squared U.S., an Oxford style debate format show distributed by National Public Radio and available online and through free podcasts, is that wonderful combination of education, exposition and entertainment. IQ2US, it’s shorthand name, is not new. The show has been produced in the U.S. since 2006 as an initiative of the Rosenkranz Foundation to promote healthy civic dialogue. The original British version is still going strong after more than a decade (and can be viewed online, too, something I highly recommend.) But lately the U.S. enterprise has caught a buzz. Or maybe it is just that I’ve newly discovered this gem, and have been sifting through its meaty archive ever since.
February 06, 2013
New York, NY – Wednesday, February 6, 2013. The 56th Annual New York Emmy® Award nominations took place this morning at the studios of CUNY-TV.
ON-CAMERA TALENT: PROGRAM HOST/MODERATOR
Al Trautwig. October 4, 2011. (MSG Network).
Al Trautwig. December 23, 2011. (MSG Network). “MSGs Vault.”
John Donvan. October 15, 2011. (Thirteen/WNET). “Intelligence Squared U.S. Debate Series.”
Laura Savini. July 15, 2012. (WPIX-TV). “Meet the Artist: Milos.”
Michael Kay. September 22, 2011. (YES Network). “CenterStage.”
Paula Zahn. April 26, 2012. (Thirteen/WNET). “NYC-Arts.”
January 16, 2013
Intelligence Squared U.S. takes its civic duty with more gravitas. The idea is that American attitudes have grown more entrenched and insular thanks to the Internet and to TVs with more than three channels. “We want to help people understand the facts behind the emotion,” Rosenkranz explained to an interviewer when the show launched. “Force people to have a greater respect for civil discourse, not trying to be bland, but appreciating how complicated the issues are.” The result lacks some of the gladiatorial fun of its British cousin. Host John Donvan, a former foreign and White House correspondent for ABC News, is an interventionist moderator who treats the debate more like a multi-person interview, interjecting questions, shushing the dominant, and congratulating guests at the end on their integrity.
November 13, 2012
Intelligence Squared U.S., the nonpartisan public policy debate series airing on public radio and some public TV stations, is coming to PBS Plus in January, with Chicago’s WTTW as the presenting station.
Eight debates will be offered monthly through 2013 during non-pledge periods, starting Jan. 17. The first episode takes on the provocative motion “Better Elected Islamists than Dictators.”
The one-hour programs, which already air on more than 220 NPR stations, are condensed from recordings of the one-hour-and-45-minute debates moderated by ABC News correspondent John Donvan before live audiences in New York. The series launched in 2006 as a nonprofit initiative of the Rosenkranz Foundation.
“We felt that it was the right time to go national,” said Dana Wolfe, executive producer of Intelligence Squared U.S.
In an interview, WTTW’s top TV executive Daniel Soles described the program as “a very unique offering” for the system: “thoughtful intelligent discussions on issues that affect us, presented in a way that allows the audience to make up their own minds.”
Before each debate, members of the studio audience are polled on whether they agree or disagree with the motion. A second poll is taken at the debate’s conclusion to determine whether the debate team arguing for or against the motion “wins”; the side that changes the most minds is declared the victor. “No one is demonized, and you’re rewarded by being articulate and presenting a good case,” said Soles, WTTW senior v.p. and chief television content officer.
A debate recorded Oct. 10 during the Chicago Ideas Week festival, for example, demonstrated how the viewers’ opinions can shift. The pre-debate poll on the motion to ration end-of-life care showed support by 43 percent, opposition from 22 percent and 35 percent undecided. Following the debate, support nearly doubled to 81 percent, 12 percent were opposed and just 7 percent remained undecided.
An earlier version of the TV show aired on Bloomberg TV, and in the 2011–12 season the programs moved to WNET, WLIW and NJTV in the New York area. Select debates, different from those to be offered for broadcast through PBS Plus, also air on the digital World channel syndicated by American Public Television. All debates also stream live on FORA.tv and are archived on the Intelligence Squared U.S. website.
WTTW aired a handful of the shows in past seasons, including debates that were staged in Chicago, before deciding to sign on as presenting station for the PBS Plus distribution deal. “We’re really glad that after a few years these debates will finally be available to all the stations around the country,” Soles said. “I’m confident there is going to be a loyal following.”
The NPR audience has steadily grown, Wolfe said, noting that the podcast is currently averaging 100,300 monthly downloads, up from 85,052 a year ago. She said producers are also developing a website widget that will allow stations to invite their listeners and viewers to vote on debate motions in advance of local broadcasts.
September 28, 2012
Wednesday night. Romney vs. Obama. Live. The 28th episode in America’s long-running television series — the presidential debates — in which two men go on stage and face off without scripts or teleprompters, and with the ever-present possibility of getting trounced or humiliated. In presidential politics, a debate — a real debate — is a test like no other.
That’s why none of us has never seen one. A true debate is just too risky. From 1960 onward, the events called presidential debates have delivered not clashes of of rhetorical greatness but the spectacle of two people engaged in dueling job interviews. These interviews unfold side by side in front of the same human resources representative, and the skill needed to land the position is much the same as the one eighth-graders rely on to win spelling bees: the ability to memorize the answers to the questions ahead of time, then repeat them, precisely as learned. Debates? Modern politicians don’t partake in debates. Not real ones.
Now, I serve on real debates. I know real debates. Real debaters are friends of mine. And these campaign-season sessions are not real debates. In fact, I would argue in the affirmative for the following proposition: We must change the format of the presidential debates.
Because the format is the problem. While the Commission on Presidential Debates, which stages these events, was criticized this year for booking too few female and minority moderators, and perennially for excluding third-party candidates, the more entrenched issue is the structure of the debates themselves. They are designed to keep the candidates from getting into trouble or embarrassing themselves by looking mean, uninformed or scared. That is a backward priority. A debate is a contest, a competition, a battle. The rules should be calibrated to produce the best contest possible, not to protect the contestants from themselves.
When candidates debate each other, they should debate each other. In a real debate, the participants engage, they grapple, they get into each other’s hair (metaphorically, of course). Without that clash of ideas and personalities, there’s no point in getting the two sides together on one stage. But in the presidential debates over the years, the rules have bizarrely permitted the candidates to “debate” without actually addressing each other. Some have spent the entire night studiously avoiding eye contact. Their escape mechanism is the moderator, designated as the one person on stage whom both candidates must address, in a weirdly triangulated conversation, as they work through the questions the moderator poses. So it becomes those questions, not the candidates’ ideas or personalities, driving the discussion. It feels hollow. It feels forced. There’s a simple fix for this: Make these candidates talk to each other.
August 22, 2012
With the debate moderators announced and the dates set, America awaits this year’s three presidential and one vice presidential debates.
Robert Rosenkranz thinks there’s a better way. His “Intelligence Squared U.S.” program was founded in 2006 and can be heard on 220 National Public Radio stations, on public television’s digital channel WORLD and via an online stream at Fora.TV.
August 02, 2012
Reading cultivates strong leaders - but what if you don't have time to read? Here's what to do: "Listen to content while driving or walking to work (I suggest “This American Life” and “Intelligence Squared” on NPR – I’m obsessed with both)."