<videovortex> democracy on utube

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Sat Aug 11 08:57:55 CEST 2007

> From: "Megan Boler" <megan.boler at gmail.com>
> NYTtimes
> July 23, 2007
> Debates to Connect Candidates and Voters Online
> The first of a new kind of presidential debate is scheduled for
> tonight, one in which members of the general public pose questions to
> the candidates via homemade video. The debate is the latest front in
> the candidates' running battle to keep up with the fast-paced changes
> wrought by the Internet on politics.
> CNN and YouTube are sponsoring the debate, which will take place among
> the eight Democratic presidential candidates. They are sponsoring a
> similar debate for the nine Republican candidates on Sept. 17.
> People have sent in more than 2,000 online videos to YouTube.com,
> where they are posted. CNN, which is broadcasting the debate in
> English and in Spanish on CNN En Español, will determine which two or
> three dozen videos it shows during the two-hour forum, which starts at
> 7 p.m. Eastern time. The candidates, who will assemble in Charleston,
> S.C., will be able to watch the videos on a giant screen or on
> monitors at their lecterns.
> A scan of the videos submitted to YouTube shows most video-makers
> taking a straightforward approach, sitting at home and talking
> directly into the camera. The questions cover expected topics like
> health care, student loans and the crisis in Darfur, though some are
> asked in a provocative way. And many veer into unexpected territory.
> One young man shows a clip of President Dwight D. Eisenhower warning
> about the influence of the military industrial complex and then asks
> the candidates if that is still a relevant concern. "If so," he asks,
> "how would you help to protect America from its undue influence?"
> Another asks the candidates if they would put their friends in
> important government jobs. "Or are you going to hire the best and the
> brightest?" he asks. "Or are you prepared to tell us that your friends
> are the best and the brightest?"
> A black man standing in front of a check-cashing store asks the
> candidates how they would stop predatory lending in low-income
> neighborhoods. A college student wants to know if the candidates would
> lower the legal drinking age to 18 from 21.
> Another video-maker asks: "If you had to choose a current Republican
> presidential candidate as your running mate, who would you choose, and
> why?"
> Many analysts, from consultants to bloggers, see the video format as
> having the potential to bring new voices into the process and change
> the media equation.
> "These debates are the first real political foray into citizen
> journalism," writes Morra Aarons, a blogger and political director for
> BlogHer.org, which covers women's issues. Ms. Aarons is also a
> Democratic consultant who supports Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton but
> is not affiliated with her or any campaign.
> Like many who are keen on the experiment, she wonders if it is an
> overhyped gimmick or if it will substantially alter the debates or
> politics.
> "How big a shift does this really signal?" Ms. Aarons writes. "Is it a
> shift, or is it a stunt?"
> David Bohrman, the Washington bureau chief for CNN, who has been
> sitting in a production bus in South Carolina for several days
> scanning the submissions and helping pick which ones to broadcast,
> said that at a minimum, the new format would prompt some excitement.
> "You can't set out to make a revolutionary shift," he said. "But you
> can set out to push the definition of a debate."
> Mr. Bohrman said he had been surprised by how few questions there were
> about Iraq, how broad the age range was of the questioners and how
> many of the videos showed a person just talking into the camera. He
> said that although he had expected some flashy production values and
> backgrounds, the simplicity of those submitted made him think more
> about the question.
> "They will force the candidates to really connect to these people,"
> Mr. Bohrman said. "They are very focused."
> Michael Bassik, a Democratic consultant who specializes in online
> political advertising and is not affiliated with any campaign, said
> that even if the video questions boiled down to the same ones that
> might be asked in a traditional debate, the format had given access to
> people who would not normally have it.
> "Whether the questions are groundbreaking is not as important as how
> many people will be exposed to this," Mr. Bassik said. Still, it
> remains up to the candidates to motivate people to vote, he said.
> Jeff Jarvis, a former television critic who now blogs on media and
> politics on buzzmachine.com and has started a video blog called
> PrezVid to track the campaign, said the video debate might show
> mainstream journalists how to ask better questions.
> "Journalists who ask questions at these debates always say to
> themselves, 'How can I do a gotcha moment?' " he said. Ordinary
> people, he said, "bring some human eloquence."
> Mr. Jarvis is among many who have criticized CNN for retaining control
> over which videos are shown, as opposed to showing the ones viewers
> watch the most or rate as the best.
> "It's our democracy, not yours, CNN," he said. "There is a need for
> order, but not control." He said that although random questions from
> ordinary people might show "some real turkeys," it would also show
> that "people really care, and democracy is in good hands."
> Mr. Bohrman defended the decision, saying that having a gatekeeper
> would prevent the debate from becoming a circus and prevent campaigns
> from manipulating the process with thousands of clicks on questions
> they like.
> He also said that now that he had seen the videos, he was "more
> convinced than ever" that CNN was doing the right thing and would do
> it the same way for the Republican debate in September.
> "This way, every single question has a chance to get into this
> debate," he said. "I know we'll be second-guessed to death. But I want
> there to be more uses of new media, this year and in 2012. So it's
> important that we not screw it up and have politicians say, 'I'm never
> going to do one of those again.' "

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