• Drawing of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon Debate, Franklin McMahon

Tonight is the final presidential debate before the election, and thank goodness. The past month has been a nonstop stream of online chatter about these presidential debates—who won, who performed with more energy, what it means for the election—even though they’ve seemed like nothing more than a giant theatrical charade, more so than any other time before. But hey, they’ve been entertaining, and since we love a good debate, this week’s Variations on a Theme is Debate Week. (In case you missed it, here’s Local Artist Week, last week’s Variations on a Theme.)

Lately, the presidential debates are what come to mind when the word “debate” is mentioned (at least in America, and especially in the media), but the topic would be a prescient one even at a different time of the year. In media, whether it be print, televisual, or digital, the debate format is more popular than ever. News articles increasingly take a tack that will engender lively comments section—the website Slate has even created a Twitter hashtag that lampoons the publication’s tendency to publish blatantly contrarian articles. Television news programs do less investigative journalism and more roundtable discussions between pundits who look like they want to do little more than promote their own brand. And Twitter and Facebook comment boxes (not to mention comment sections on websites) are unending sources of debates between friends, colleagues, acquaintances, friends of friends, people who don’t know each other, and trolls.

In the current media landscape, debates are ubiquitous, so what better to write about? Tune in all this week to read Reader writers on the presidential debates, topics that are being debated, or the notion of debates. By the time it ends, we might decide to do soliloquy week as a respite.