Sunday, July 22, 2007

YouTube-CNN Democratic Presidential Debate Tomorrow Night

Today - July 22 - is the last day you can submit your videotaped questions to YouTube for the Democratic Presidential debate which will take place on CNN tomorrow - Monday. I'm about 2/3rds finished with the 7th and final Harry Potter novel, but I wanted to take a few minutes away from the wizards and witches to comment on this media milestone.

I've been thinking a lot about this debate. It's an imperfect step forward in the democratization of Presidential debates, to be sure - no reporters, no buffers between the people and their questions for the candidates, but CNN will still have to choose which videos make the light of airtime on Monday evening.

But a half or whatever percentage of a loaf of new democracy this is, it is surely better than none.

In contrast to the traditional Presidential debate format, where we have to hope that the reporters at the table think enough along the same lines as you and I that they ask questions of real interest to you - in contrast to that profoundly indirect hit-and-miss process - on Monday night at least some small percentage of you, if not I, will get to have your faces and voices and questions put right there to the candidates. And you won't have to be in Charleston, South Carolina in some crowded audience tomorrow night, either, to ask your question. You could have uploaded it already, or can still, sometime today, from any place.

And that's progress, laudable progress, I think.

But is it revolutionary, along the lines of the first televised debate between JFK and Richard Nixon in 1960?

That debate was extraordinarily important only in retrospect, after the debate, in a very close election. Polls of radio listeners reported that Nixon had won. Polls of television viewers liked JFK. Many many more people watched the debates on television, and the rest was history....

So the proof of the pudding, or loaf of democracy tomorrow night - whether it's half or much less or much more - will be in the viewing, and in the aftermath.

I'll be back here shortly after with a report.
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