The CNN-YouTube Gimmick, er Debates

I did not watch the CNN-YouTube debates last night, so I must rely on others to tell me how this experimental mash-up of traditional and new media layered on top of a presidential debate went. As with any political event, the reaction varies greatly depending on whom you ask.

CNN.com told me that “Questions, Not Answers, Highlight YouTube Debate” and that “YouTube questions were sometimes personal, heartfelt and comical.” Also:

One of the highlights came when a YouTuber asked the candidates to look to their left and say one thing about that person they liked and one thing they disliked.

I had to watch the candidates answer such a riveting question, so I clicked on the “See telling quotes from each candidate” link, sat through a 15-second preroll E-trade ad, and quickly dozed off as each candidate launched into the usual drivel. This was a highlight?

Anyway, here’s how others reacted:

  • The Guardian Unlimited in the U.K. proclaimed that YouTube is prompting a “revolution in televised debates,” though it didn’t provide much in the article to back up that headline.
  • TelevisionWeek blogger Daisy Whitney called the debates “unbelievably cool and completely emblematic of the times.” Like, you know, very tubular.  
  • A blogger for the Seattle Post Intelligencer hit the nail on the head, commenting that presidential debates are pretty lame regardless of the format.
  • The LA Times said the presidential hopefuls “embraced the Internet in all its brashness and irreverence,” while cross-town rival LA Weekly News had a different viewpoint, accurately calling the debates “a perversion of Web technology” and adding:

The Net really does provide a potentially formidable challenge to both establishment politics and mainstream media — but not when cheaply manipulated the way CNN engineered this farce. Authentic Web-driven power surfaces most dramatically when online communities exercise collective accountability over institutions and individuals that were once invulnerable to instantaneous public reaction and feedback. 

Uh-oh, not good. I’m sure the Republican version in September will be even more raucous!

Hey, here’s a progressive idea for the pols and those covering them: If you want real citizen-candidate interaction, why don’t you ask voters to submit questions, pick two dozen that represent a good cross-section of the country, and put them in a room with the candidates, so they can have a real conversation and voters can ask follow-ups to the non-answers they get to their initial questions. No time limit. Let them all bring their camcorders to record the event and post their individual perspectives on YouTube. Now that’s citizen journalism.

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One thought on “The CNN-YouTube Gimmick, er Debates”

  1. as forums (not debates) go it was pretty entertaining. The candidates did seem a little more onp oint than usual, and Anderson Cooper was a good ringmaster. If there was any blame for its lack of decorum it would go to CNN’s editors, who took a few cheapshots, and totally neglected some major issues.

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