What will the first YouTube debates look like? No one is entirely sure yet. But if the press conference hosted by YouTube and debate co-sponsor CNN is any indication, they might not be smooth-running affairs:
Ahead of a conference call Thursday, the companies sent the wrong dial-in number to many journalists, leaving about a dozen of them listening to dead air while colleagues calls continued on another line.
After the fact, there was some finger-pointing, but no official explanation of how the lines of communications had been crossed. Reporters who missed the first 15 minutes or so of the news conference could get an e-mail transcript.
… As for ironing out any possible glitches or communication problems before the debate, CNN said it was sure everything would be organized and ready.
“We don’t normally handle the press conferences,” Mr. Bohrman said. “But we are running the debates, so the audience shouldn’t worry.”
OK, so it’s probable that the technical side of the debate will run without much of a hitch (CNN’s previous debates may have been a bit daft, but they weren’t lacking in production polish). But the question still remains: What will the content of the debate look like?
What if someone wants to use a song or a clip from a movie or TV show? Will YouTube filter out copyrighted material, or are they going to make an argument that fair use applies? If they do filter out copyrighted stuff, will we be left with dozens of blotchy webcam videos of kids sitting in their bedrooms, staring into the screen, and wondering what the candidates will do about their pet issues? I’m all for innovation and incorporating technology into the democratic process, but I just can’t see these debates providing any particularly relevant information. I don’t know whether to be slightly horrified or giddy about the entertainment sure to be provided by these events.
That said, if Media Blog readers want to create video questions of their own, feel free to send me links. I’ll try to post some of the better ones here.
Update: This is what I’m talking about.
Aliens not withstanding, are citizens of other countries going to be allowed to ask questions?