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Editorial: Be it resolved not to make fun of teleprompter use

Published 10:47am Thursday, December 19, 2013

The coming year, 2014, is an election year.

Here is a suggested election-year resolution for liberals and conservatives in America: Resolve not to blast each other for using teleprompters. No one is unintelligent for using a teleprompter. Furthermore, we ask audiences not to get worked up and consider politicians lazy for using them.

The fact is, teleprompters make sense. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all have used teleprompters. So did their opponents. So did their vice presidents.

Public speaking is not as easy as a good speaker makes it look. A speech is written, and for politicians speaking night after night, with a variety of messages and speeches for a variety of rooms and crowds, it only made sense to have papers or notecards — in the olden days. The modern equivalent is a teleprompter. It allows a speaker to see his or her talking points while keeping eyes on the audience, rather than glancing down at the podium frequently. Why is that somehow more “lazy” than the old way of shuffling papers on a podium?

Abraham Lincoln had notes with him at the Gettysburg Address. Martin Luther King Jr. glanced down at the podium time to time during his great “I have a dream” speech. So did John F. Kennedy at his inaugural address, where he gave his famous “ask not” statement. They surely would have used teleprompters in the modern era.teleprompter1

Teleprompters aren’t merely for speeches. When people on TV news look into a camera, they don’t see a lens. They see a teleprompter — words on a screen — that covers the lens, thanks to a half-silvered mirror. That’s what presidents see when they speak to the American people over TV from the Oval Office.

Making fun of a politician for using modern technology seems to say the finger pointer must be a backward Luddite. Perhaps the pundits and politicians making fun of politicians and presidents for using teleprompters lack an ability to use up-to-date technology themselves. They probably have a cathode-ray TV set with rabbit ears that gets the four networks and public television. They don’t believe steroids affected performance in baseball. They like to carry cash with a clip and have no need for plastic cards all kinds. They never could figure out that VCR doohickey, don’t like golf clubs with big heads and still remain weary of the concept of “fuel injection” in automobile engines.

We ask for this election-year resolution — drop the issue of teleprompters — but, somehow, we don’t believe it’s going to be followed.