Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Politics: NetCenter08 - GOP YouTube Debate

I have been very caught up in things lately so I apologize for the lapse in posting.

I think this video is an excellent representation of the possible future of media. Dubbed "NetCenter08," It is 2 new media personalities: Dan Manatt from Politics, and David All from to discuss the latest CNN Republican Presidential debate which used YouTube questions.

It looks to me like they are talking on webcams much like the old media talks through satellite links. These two webcam videos are then composited together with some graphics and footage from the debates. It is a really good use of widely available, relatively low cost, technology to create the look and feel of your typical news debate. Because it is coming from the netroots rather than TV producers, this conversation feels more authentic to me. I hope we see more of this format. Todays TV media feels more like a pro wrestling circus among elite media pundits and hosts. That is what the old media thinks is good television but it has been done to death. This new media technology can bring more diversity to the national conversation. That is what this site is created to celebrate.

As for this CNN YouTube Debate, I like the national town hall format that it represents. The problem for me is in the details, however. Stalin once said that it's not who votes, it's who counts the votes. In this case it's not who asks the questions, it's who chooses the questions that make it in. There were 5000 submissions for this debate. CNN chose somewhere around 34 questions without any input from anyone but CNN. Now, do you think if CNN had a list of questions they wanted to ask ahead of time that they couldn't find one of the 5000 that asked it for them? What's to stop them? In that sense this whole thing feels more like an exploitation of the new media as a pool for low cost content ideas and as a marketing gimmick rather than an authentic tool of democracy. In that measure, it troubles me.

I have the same issue with Current TV. They talk about democratizing the media by letting anyone submit things but that is useless if some group of staff TV producers then gets to choose from those submissions and sit down with editors and change the perspective, or cut stuff out and put on their own graphics to "punch it up". How is this any different from approaching any producer anywhere to pitch our work? The democracy is in letting the people decide what goes on the air and putting it on as chosen. It is not bestowing people with the privilege of pitching your video to a media person. In this area both CNN and Current TV are failing the democratic potential of the web media. When these old media and new media representatives decide they will have the guts to put real democracy into the process, then they can talk about how great and innovative their ideas are. Until then they are just selling used cars with a new paint job.

If you want to see real political democracy in action go to THAT is a YouTube town hall forum worth praising. Both PoliticsTV and TechRepublican and tons of other netroots organizations are sponsors. On that site you submit YouTube videos and then vote for the ones you want and the top 10 are presented to the candidates to make their own response videos. The submission and voting phase is over but the questions chosen are all good and it will be nice to hear some answers. You also get to vote on how well each candidate's answers to the questions are. So far Mike Huckabee, Rona Paul and John Edwards have agreed to participate. Barack Obama also answered 1 question by putting in a clip from one of his speeches as an answer. You can send a mass email to every candidate from their website. Please do so if you want to support real democracy in the new media.

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