CNN, YouTube and Not Asking The Right Question
America’s great experiment with citizen journalism may have been an historic moment, even a fine harbinger of the future, and most certainly the most populist step forward the country has taken, but critics are saying that CNN, once itself a pivotal media development, failed to push the envelope in the YouTube Debates.
Though the cable news outfit said the most popular question submitted to the video sharing site was about whether or not Arnold Schwarzenegger was really a cyborg, a result that immediately discounts the masses as unserious at best and downright ridiculous at worst, thus making a case for the necessity and relevance of traditional media and representative government, Rory O’Connor of CBCNews says that was a premature result.
O’Connor says the most popular question was about the impeachment of President Bush:
Instead of leaving the decision of which questions would be asked to the same citizens who had already sent in thousands of mostly intelligent, serious and to-the-point videos, CNN honchos decided they needed to ‘filter’ the process and decide themselves which questions would get asked, so as to ensure the seriousness and high purpose of the evening would not be dragged through the mud of the mob.
Further, in their quest for more control, the moderator did not press the candidates to answer the questions, or, if from Anderson Cooper’s point of view, the candidates would not cooperate in what could have been an open and honest debate.
On top of that was CNN’s apparent lack of understanding of the multiple screen concept; the debates would be seen not just on television, but also on YouTube, and on portable video devices. We might be tempted to watch John Stewart, of Comedy Central’s "The Daily Show" explain the full-screen vs. small screen concept to CNN, but as he noted in that segment, he’s not allowed on YouTube.
Questions from YouTubers came from a small box in the corner of a big screen, having the look of YouTube, but not the sense of scale. And, as Stewart also noted, the candidates gave the same answers they always gave, citizen journalism experiment or not.
So far, we have a nice step forward in the power and potential of citizen journalism – something has happened, at least – but old media and old politics still prevail, preventing any lack of control that might negate their goals or their relevance.