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Is it time for another CNN/YouTube debate?
Aug. 8, 2016
by Mark Ollig

YouTube took center stage during the 2008 Democratic Presidential Debate July 27, 2007.

Many of us will remember watching CNN and their little countdown clock inserted in the lower right-hand corner of our television screen.

This clock was ticking down the hours, minutes, and seconds to the start of the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate broadcast.

The anticipation felt like a NASA Apollo rocket was about to lift off from launch pad 39A.

This upcoming “first ever,” and “revolutionary” citizen participation video experiment used YouTube, the fourth most daily visited website on the Internet (in 2007).

Today, YouTube is ranked second, behind Google (who owns YouTube), per Alexa, an Internet analytics company owned by Amazon.

In 2007, I needed to explain what YouTube was, since it was only two years old at the time.

“YouTube, located at: http://youtube.com/ is an online video sharing website where users can upload, view, and share audio-video clips,” I wrote.

Presenting videos created by everyday citizens, who uploaded them to YouTube for use as candidate questions was noteworthy.,

It’s the first time this was done.

This type of participation seemed to be of interest to many of the young people (millennials), based on the number of their submitted videos.

By creating a personalized video, folks were actively participating in the political process.

Over 3,000 people posted video questions for the CNN/YouTube Democratic debate.

Of these 3,000 videos, 39 were shown and commented on by the candidates.

According to a story on the CNN website; “Though CNN vetted [examined] the question; it was the first time that a journalist or a professional has not dictated what is asked of the candidates.”

So, was the CNN/YouTube debate a new form of electorate “video democracy?”

“Tonight is really something of an experiment,” CNN’s moderator Anderson Cooper told the audience at the start of the debate.

After the debate was over, CNN interviewed some of the people who provided YouTube video questions, and aired their reaction to the candidate’s answers.

Many of those video questions included political and social topics occurring in 2007.

There was one amusingly presented, although serious, question about global warming asked by a snowman in a stop-motion claymation video by “Billiam the Snowman.”

This video was sent in by two brothers from Minnesota.

The 2007 video question asked by Billiam the Snowman is here: http://tinyurl.com/Billiamvid.

Yours truly is writing this modified column during the first week of August, with high humidity and temperatures in the upper 80s.

I hope the thought of a frozen snowman cooled you down a bit.

The complete 2008 Democratic Presidential Debate, which took place in South Carolina on July 23, 2007, can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/2007CNNYouTube.

The Democratic candidates participating during the debate were: Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, John Edwards, Maurice Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

Hillary, Joe, and Barack sure looked a lot younger back then; of course, we all probably did.

C-Span online also has the complete July 27, 2007 Democratic Presidential Candidates Debate archived.

C-SPAN offers closed captioning, text search, and text filtering by all speakers, including the CNN moderator.

Here’s a shortened link to the C-Span video: http://tinyurl.com/CSPAN2007Debate.

The concerns from 2007 being raised in the questions from the videos and the moderator, along with the candidates answers; gives one pause to reflect upon the current state of our country and world events.

Let’s hope there are citizen video questions asked of this year’s presidential candidates during the upcoming debates.

Follow me on Twitter via my @bitsandbytes user name.

This column originally appeared July 30, 2007, and includes recent modifications by the writer.


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