HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
July 30, 2007, Herald Journal

A new generation of debates


I’m not all that into politics. Most of the time I find it hard to comprehend and rather boring. The other night, politics caught my eye.

I was flipping through the channels, all 24 of them, when I came across the CNN-YouTube Democratic Debate on CSPAN.

Instead of passing by CSPAN like I would’ve a year ago, lately it’s becoming one of my top channels to watch.

Anyway, the debate was hosted by CNN reporter Anderson Cooper, whom I admire, so I thought I would give it a chance.

It was definitely the hippest political anything I have ever seen. The debate took questions from Americans all over the US using the latest web technology – YouTube.

Using YouTube for the question/answer session gave average Joes the opportunity to ask real, down-to-earth questions instead of generic questions.

Cooper did a great job keeping the candidates on track and not letting them go over the alotted time to answer questions.

This new style of political debate undoubtedly attracted more young viewers. In fact, ratings from the debate showed this had the highest number of viewers ages 18-34 in the entire history of cable news debates, according to CBS news.

This is great news since young Americans are less likely to vote than the older generations.

The other positive aspect of the YouTube debate was the fast pace of it all.

Questions were asked often, answers were answered quickly, and there was a sense of entertainment as well.

By using YouTube, citizens asking questions could be as creative as they wanted, but it by no means lost its seriousness. It just made it more interesting, that’s all.

There were 3,000 people who submitted YouTube questions, although only 39 were used. The selections were relevant and covered a variety of issues that are on the table.

I did find the snowman puppet asking the candidates about global warming a bit extreme and childish, though. Unfortunately, this also happened to be from Minnesota. Way to represent!

To jazz things up and take a break from the question-and-answer portion, YouTube candidate ads were shown. Some were clever, others mundane, but it broke up the two- hour debate.

Most of the candidates were interesting to listen to as well. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards seemed to have the most time to answer questions, or maybe they just had more to say.

Candidates like Mike Gravel and Chris Dodd were too busy shaking their fists and tooting their own horns.

All-in-all, the debate did what it set out to do, which I think was to attract younger voters and get to the point when it comes to answering common and crucial questions.

Who’s to say if this is the new structure for candidate debates, but it was a refreshing change to the norm.