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A Fact-Checked Debate About Cannabis Legalization

posted by Jason Kottke   Dec 15, 2022

Vox recently invited two people with differing views on the decriminalization and commercialization of cannabis to have an on-camera debate. The topic is interesting and relevant, but I’m mostly highlighting this for the format. Instead of just doing a traditional debate, the producers and participants came up with a list of facts that both parties accepted as true to discuss and rebut:

We thought both of their perspectives were worth hearing but didn’t want to stage a traditional debate where viewers so often come away confused about what to believe. So we created a format that would help establish a shared foundation of facts while still communicating what each of these advocates believe is the most important information to know.

In this new take on a debate, we asked both participants to identify facts that their opponent would have to concede are true. They were given an opportunity to review their adversary’s facts in advance and in a video call agreed on a set of six. In the video, you’ll see those facts presented, with each participant given the opportunity to add a “footnote” to their opponent’s facts.

Producer Joss Fong said of this novel format:

We made something new: a debate format where you don’t have to trust either of the adversaries (or trust us!) to learn something new and valuable about a policy issue.

I think it worked really well — more facts, less arguing & peacocking. I’d definitely welcome a podcast with this debate format.