Moderator Lester Holt said in his opening remarks: “We are going to focus onmany of the issues that voters tell us are most important and we’re going topress for specifics…this evening belongs to the candidates and just as important to the American people. Candidates we look forward to hearing you articulate your policies and your positions as well as your visions and yourvalues.

Two takeaways here: 1) Holt’s emphasis on pressing for specifics about issues that the voters are concerned about, and 2) the prospect of delving into what shapes the candidates values.

Additionally, there was a lot of back and forth between the two over issues like the racial divide in America and securing American borders both virtually and physically. Ultimately though, the inevitable mention of Trump’s tax returns and Hillary’s private email server took up a large portion of the discussion. This, along with the debate over Trump’s claim that President Obama wasn’t born in the United States, contributed to the use of the discussion of important issues as a way to facilitate a dialogue central to which candidate has, for lack of a better phrase, “screwed up the least.”

Although there was some speculation over who the winner of the debate was (Fox News had said one thing, CNN said another), I would agree with the argument that some of Trump’s best moments came at the beginning of the debate, “which is the most-watched portion” but, ultimately his ignorance left him with the short-end of the stick, allowing Hillary to take control of the conversation and win the debate. His poor history of slandering women and minorities was arguably the nail in the coffin that caused him to lose. (The Washington Post did put out an article though that looked at the counterargument for why Trump actually won the debate over Hillary…)

Ultimately, although the fact checking helped to clear up the numerous points of confusion and chaos, as an American voter I was looking for some media outlet to turn to following the debate to help me synthesize the thoughts that were going through my mind. But then I began to think about our ethics studies in relation to the coverage of the election and felt a bit lost: is there anywhere to turn?

Jay Rosen talks about the “view from nowhere” and how journalists portray this false sense of objectivity that essentially ends up becoming impartiality instead. Yet by pretending that they hold no bias, journalists are inadvertently misguiding their audiences into believing something that is not true.

So the question amidst my disjointed rambling has changed: regardless of what matters most to the American people—values, vision, proposed plans of action—with the ability to buy the attention of voters with advertisements, and the distorted perception of reality created by the hidden agenda of different media sources claiming to be objective/impartial, are we really active in the process of deciding what we want? Or are we bystanders to the subjective process of the overlying consumer culture that determines what we care about and how we rely on others—the marketplace, the media—to develop and embody these apparent beliefs?