By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A better YouTube debate

May I make a confession? I completely forgot about last night’s Democratic debate, and thus missed the two-hour exercise in YouTube-fueled citizen participation.

But I can definitely see both sides regarding the one controversy the format engendered: CNN’s decision to handpick the questions rather than let the YouTube community vote on them. The chances of campaign workers’ monkeywrenching the results were high. On the other hand, if CNN is going to pick which questions it wants the candidates to be asked, it might as well let Anderson Cooper ask the questions.

David Bernstein of the Phoenix writes that CNN “pretty much created a TV show out of the free raw video materials, not entirely unlike an episode of America’s Funniest Home Videos.” He’s right.

So here’s an idea that might work. Let CNN pick six or seven (or 10) broad categories that it wants to put to the candidates. Let the YouTube community vote on the best question in each of those categories. Questions that mention any candidate by name can be thrown out. What do you think?

Over at YouTube today, you can watch the debate, question by question, and post your own video response.

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  1. Anonymous

    Tom Shales has a good article in today’s Washington Post. Don’t know how to post the link. I agree with his comments.

  2. Anonymous

    Hey Dan. There’s a story on Digg that says the Youtube debate was goatsed.If it’s true, my view of unfiltered citizen participation remains dubious.

  3. Peter Porcupine

    If YouTube is using barnyard animals, I would at least expect sheep!I liked Bernstein’s comment – free content, whoo hoo!Had I submitted a question, I would have aksed how they expect us to believe that they can face down Ahmadinejad and Iran when they’re scared to go on Fox and face down Chris Wallace.

  4. Bruce

    The goatse claim was a hoax. A funny one, but a hoax, nonetheless.

  5. Steve

    Peter – I hear that talking point constantly about being “scared” to go on Fox, but it seems like a total non sequitor to me. What the heck is it supposed to mean?

  6. Peter Porcupine

    Steve – do you REALLY hear it everywhere? I made it up! Heh.Fox wanted to host a Dem. debate as it had a GOP one. The Dem. candidates all refused to appear on Fox, as it was ‘biased’, and they would be asked unfair and slanted questions. Possibly like the real world, where every question isn’t a puffball.The GOP’s willingly went onto to CNN, and were subjected to some VERY slanted questions by Matthews – yet the Dems are squeamish about facing Chris Wallace on Fox.So how would they cope with the demands of hostile world leaders, much less Americans who don’t already agree with them? They DO want to be President of the entire NATION, don’t they, and not just those they are sure voted for them?Ah, for the days when the question was not who could stand up to Nikita, but who would sit down with Jack Paar!

  7. Steve

    Dan – sorry for using your comment section to conduct this discussion.Peter – Fox News has repeatedly demonstrated that it is nothing more than a press outlet for the Republican party. A campaign is a public relations effort. Giving a free shot to the opposition is stupid PR.”Standing up” to Iran, or al Qaeda or whatever has NOTHING to do with it. Unless it means that the Democratic party candidates won’t be stupid. One wishes the same were true of Republicans.

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