CNN to YouTube: Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses ...
Yesterday, I wrote a blog saying that I thought an alliance between ABC News and Facebook was a good idea because it had the potential to get young people more involved in politics. So I feel obligated to apply that thinking to the CNN-YouTube debates, the Republican version of which airs tonight at 8 p.m. ET.
That said, I get the heebie jeebies when I think about people submitting videos of themselves asking questions of candidates. Why this is, I do not know, because of course politicians should be obligated to the electorate (something this administration seems to have completely forgotten). That means listening to and answering their questions, responding to their concerns, and actually voting in ways that serve their interests (as opposed to the interests of corporations with far more access and money). What better way to bring candidates together with would-be voters than the Internet? So I should be thrilled about this YouTube development, right?
Still, perusing the questions people have posed for tonight’s debates, I feel relieved to observe that political journalists should not fear that citizens are going to be taking over their jobs anytime soon. On the other hand, they should fear that apparently everyone, his brother, his talking teddy bear and his snowman has acquired a video camera and is posting videos of himself online. There’s a reason we have professional journalists, and it’s not just so they can rewrite press releases, contrary to popular opinion.
Actually, CNN is using its own journalists to sort through the questions. I’ve read some commentary in which people are complaining that this is interfering with this new organic process, but it’s ridiculous to suggest that the debates could occur otherwise. First, people have submitted thousands of questions and only a few of them can make it to air and second, you don’t want a Howard Stern flunkie to get in there and muck it all up. Well, some of you probably do want that, but CNN has an interest in maintaining its credibility here.
I think my issue with asking questions via YouTube is not that people are getting involved with the process, it’s that this method requires me to watch them getting involved. I’ve grown used to having my politicians cleansed and scrubbed and presented perfectly to me, and I’ve grown – well, maybe not to like it – but to expect it. But I think it would be better if I got used to politics being a little more down and dirty and honest, and it would be even better if politics were actually all those things, instead of the “please take one statement and pass them on” political coverage we’ve been forced to accept over the past eight years.
So, while I may not want to watch the huddled masses take on Rudy, Mitt, John, Mike and all the rest in tonight’s debates, I’m certainly glad that they are doing so.