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Joe Biden and Paul Ryan face off in the vice presidential debates tonight.

VP debate: One chance to volley ideals

When Paul Ryan and Joe Biden square off in tonight's nationally televised debate, it will be political theater at its best.

Traditionally, it is the vice president's role (and that of the candidate seeking that office) to be the one on the attack. The presidential debates tend to be a bit more centric on a give and take. But with the VP match, the gloves come off.

Expect the same sound bites that have been from the coverage of the candidates public rally events to be the driver of the evening.

Ratings-wise, the presidential debates traditionally draw a larger audience. However, four years ago when Joe Biden took on a then-relatively unknown Sarah Palin, the debate's final viewership came close to the same numbers Barack Obama and John McCain brought in. It will be interesting to see where tonight's numbers end up.

Coverage: On a national stage, all of the cable news outlets will have coverage of the debate, with pre- and post-game analysis. It's like watching the former football players and coaches with replays, slow-motion plays and drawing lines on the screen.

OK, it's not that impressive, and will draw fewer viewers than Sunday's Packers game. Although, to be honest, I could be wrong with Paul Ryan being from Wisconsin.

Anyway, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News and PBS will offer coverage. The broadcast networks will suspend regular prime-time programming for the debate as well. Fox News will actually be broadcasting from Danville, Ky., at about noon our time. FOX Business Network's Rich Edson – who I had the chance to talk about Paul Ryan with before he was tapped as Mitt Romney's running mate – will offer his insight from the site, as well.

Locally, WISN-TV Ch. 12's Kent Wainscott will be at the debate, as will WDJT-TV CBS 58's John Cuoco and Mike Strehlow. WITI-TV Fox 6 will have debate coverage, and WTMJ-TV Ch. 4 will include the coverage as part of its "Red, White and Blue Election Initiative."

"The Journal stations produce comprehensive, high-quality news coverage of important local stories. This year, part of our missions is to provide viewers and listeners in each of our markets with the comprehensive election coverage," said Andre Fernandez, president of Journal Communications Inc.

WTMJ and the other stations owned by Journal Communications vow to have at least 10 minutes of election coverage a day in the 30-day run up to the general election on Nov. 6.

CALLING THE SHOTS: WISN-TV Ch. 12 has announced it has hired a new news director. Chris Gregg, currently with WMTV-TV Ch. 15 in Madison, will take on the role soon. While under Gregg's watch, the NBC affiliate in Madison earned "News Operation of the Year" and "Station of the Year" honors.

"Chris is a proven news leader with the right skills and experience to oversee our newsroom and take it to the next level," Jan Wade, president and general manager at WISN, said in a statement. "His larger market experience at strong, dominant stations, like WXYZ and WFLA, taught him how to report quality journalism, create award-winning newscasts and bring fresh ideas and energy into his newsrooms. I am also delighted that he has Midwest roots, knows our state well, and values the most important people we serve – our viewers."


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