I just sat in on a conference call with CNN and and YouTube, who are teaming up on what they are calling the “first-ever viewer-generated presidential debates.” The debates (one with the Democrats on July 23, one with the GOP on Sept. 17) will feature questions taken entirely from the public’s online video submissions, which can be submitted starting today at YouTube.
Trend-chasing stunt or genuine contribution to the public arena? Well, the former, of course, but that doesn’t mean it can’t also be the latter. On the one hand, this could become a replay of the “town hall” debate trend we saw starting in 1992, which brought out some interesting questions, but also resulted in an inordinate focus on candidates’ knowing the price of a gallon of milk.
But on the other hand, can the questions be any worse than Wolf Blitzer’s grandstanding, “Please raise your hands” interrogations or Chris Matthews’ hectoring? (Though in the conference, Micah Sifry asked the good question of why the questions aren’t being voted on by YouTubers rather than selected by the debate organizers, and didn’t get an especially good answer.) We’ll have to see whether adding video to viewer questions will affect the quality of the questions, but they should at least make them more telegenic.
All I know for sure is that I need to hear Barack Obama respond to this: