YouTubers And The Candidates
Monday night at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, the Democratic candidates for president participated in a first-of-its-kind debate.
The format of this debate was different in that it featured voters posing questions using homemade video clips submitted to the popular web site YouTube.
The Google-owned YouTube and CNN, which pre-screened the video clips, co-sponsored the debate with moderator Anderson Cooper.
Questions varied in topic ranging from "Would you be president for minimum wage?" Or "What was the definition of liberal?" Candidates also answered questions about public policy, including the war in Iraq.
More than 3,000 YouTube users submitted questions. One MU professor says voters benefit from this format.
"Quite often, the kinds of issues that are affecting citizens are not the issues that journalists are thinking about," MU Communications professor Mitchell McKinney said. "So I think we may hear a new issue agenda, or at least different issues raised in the debate."
The point is echoed by one local editor.
"The good journalists are the ones who understand that they need to answer the questions from the point of view of the readers," said Columbia Missourian managing editor Reuben Stern. "One of the tough things about a presidential debate is, often the candidates are putting out their platforms and not necessarily going after the real question, which is: 'Is this the best person that's capable more than the others of governing the place that I live?'"
In addition to using YouTube to add comments about videos and their favorite candidate, users can use YouTube to access their candidate's web site, which features a biography, campaign videos from recent interviews, as well as campaign commercials, all at the click of a button.
"I think it's an interesting experiment in engaging people in a new way, like using sort of the promise of being in a video as a way to engage people in a political process that they may or may not be paying attention to otherwise," said Stern.
While debates offer a prime opportunity for candidates to communicate with voters, the candidates are finding there are advantages and disadvantages to using YouTube.
"I think it can be used for negativity and positivity, just like a regular television ad can be used positively or negatively," said Jason Rosenbaum, a Columbia Daily Tribune reporter.
Ultimately, voters will decide whether this new technology enhances their knowledge of the candidates.
The debate comes on the heels of a report in Monday's Washington Post, which finds that some voters are already suffering from "debate fatigue" more than 15 months before the 2008 general election. Political observers are hoping the new format will keep voters interested in the election.
The next debate among Republican presidential hopefuls is slated for next month.