Sunday, July 22, 2007

"YouTube Debate Preview" (with videos)

Ari Melber (The Nation) with videos:
Tonight (Monday, 7/23) marks the first voter-generated debate in the history of American politics. The CNN-YouTube debate will present Democratic candidates with questions chosen from 2,798 homemade videos submitted by citizens across the country. By substituting the typical media moderator with questions from dozens of random Americans, organizers say the debate will have more authenticity and diversity than the usual scripted media debates. Of course, it all depends on the footage they have to choose from.
To learn what the YouTubing of American politics looks like, The Nation reviewed a random sample of 100 submitted videos. It's clear that debate organizers will have no problem finding creative and unusual questions. Most videos feature people talking straight to camera in their homes, and they rarely pull punches.

Recording from Idaho, Daryl Macdevitt tells the candidates that they have such a bad record on illegal immigration and using "deceit" to hide pork barrel spending, he wants them to answer "why should Americans believe anything you say today about any issue?" Tim Miller of Summerville, Massachusetts illustrates federal spending priorities by pouring tomato juice into several goblets, and asks the candidates whether the government should spend more to tackle climate change. The videos are not confined to human beings, either. A floating avatar head called "CNNfan" asks how the next President will "prevent computer programming from becoming a lost art" in America, given the outsourcing of programming jobs. CNN already broadcast a clip of the video, in a segment about entries that will not "make the cut."

"My question is for whoever has the guts to take it," explains "Brock B" from Alabama, before asking "Who among you is the least suited for the presidency?" The video ends with a rhetorical flourish you won't see from Wolf Blitzer – Brock reminds the candidates "America is watching" and then he closes with a James Brown style "Huah!"

Overall, most of the questions we sampled emphasized policy issues – a contrast to typical campaign coverage that prioritizes polls and strategy. Common topics included the economy, foreign policy, health care, human rights and technology. Many people directed questions to the better known candidates, with Hillary Clinton drawing the most questions. The sample also trended younger and less ethnically diverse than the electorate. YouTube and the Democratic National Committee did ask volunteers to go out with cameras and "record the questions of [people] who don't have an internet connection or a camera," though its unclear how many such videos were actually submitted.

Tonight we'll see if any of the edgier videos make the cut...
Howie P.S.: If you need to vent afterwards, here's an opportunity:

Postman, Westneat analyze the debate

Is today's much-touted YouTube Democratic presidential debate a groundbreaking way to engage the electorate, or just a flashy new format with little new substance?

Join Seattle Times chief political reporter David Postman and columnist Danny Westneat as they dissect the CNN/YouTube debate online and on TV immediately after the broadcast. They and their guests will take your calls and e-mails during the program, which will stream live on and be broadcast on TVW, Comcast channel 23.

The debate airs from 4 to 6 p.m. on CNN. Our program starts at 6 p.m.

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