Debatable

All this week, CNN has been running promos for their CNN/Youtube Democratic Candidates debate.

The idea was that anyone could upload a question for last night’s candidates debate and that the candidates would then have to answer it.

Well, its an interesting start on the democratization of democracy, so to speak, via video. But it was only a start.

As my friend Jeff Jarvis points out on Buzzmachine, it was a disappointment.

A few days ago, CNN started running a promo in which CNN News VP David Bohrman and a few producers sat at a table in front of laptops. “We’ve gotten hundreds of questions so far” says Bohrman, “and we have to pick the best ones to ask”.

Why?

Why does David Bohrman (or anyone for that matter) have to pick the best questions, or any questions. Why not just post all the video questions on the web and let the public decide which ones they like the best.

In the online world, David Bohrman, (or anyone else doing this) simply gets in the way of the process. The beauty of the web is that it does not need, nor does it want ‘executive producers’ or ‘vice presidents’. Neither would I want David Bohrman to be on Amazon.com deciding which of the thousands of books available we will be offering tonight.

Go home.

The same goes for Anderson Cooper.

Get out of the way.

The CNN/Youtube debates were a start, but only a start. We are halfway there. New technologies arrive, but we cannot help ourselves but to plug them into old and tired architectures for delivery.

Too bad.

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11 responses to “Debatable

  1. “Get out of the way.”

    That is exactly how I felt watching it.

  2. I can see the questions now…. as voted for by the masses:

    Did you read the latest Harry Potter book and see the latest Harry Potter movie?

    Would you be a Paris president or a Lindsay president?

    Boxers or briefs? (oh yeah, that one was already asked.)

    Seriously, I am not sure democratization is the best model. For the media nor for government.

    We live in a republic.

    That is what historical media journalism has been over the decades as well. A republic. Yes, people have the right to vote, pick and purchase. But at some point, higher level decisions need to be made. Hopefully those decisions are made by knowledgeable, informed people. In goverment, that means we elect leaders to lead. The founding fathers wrote a constitution putting a republic in place…and had great forethought and reasoning.

    Of course there is no “media constitution.” We are guaranteed a free press. Now… as you all know… the “free” part of free press is being fully realized. You call it the “democratization.”

    It is happening. It is true. Anyone now can publish.

    But in the realm of a Presidential press conference, do you really want to trust the masses to vote on the best questions? Do you seriously think the masses will vote on the best questions?

    Are the masses – in general – on average – going to take this nation in a better direction, or a worse direction?

    My gut feeling is…. that while the democratization of media/journalism is inevitable – there needs to be and will be a republic in place.

    The “Republic of the Press” or Media will sort through, sift through and become the organized gatekeepers.

  3. You raise an interesting point Eric, but of course, neither I nor anyone else ever voted for David Bohrman or Anderson Cooper. Perhaps we could begin by electing our anchors?

    I think you have to have more faith in the American people. And if they really did think that a Paris Hilton question was the most pressing issue of the day, what then does that say about our not-so representative media and the job they have done so far?

  4. Pingback: BuzzMachine » Blog Archive » Debating the debate

  5. Pingback: Debating the debate at PrezVid

  6. Different Eric here.

    Michael – I think you exactly miss the point. The public DID vote for Anderson Cooper – that’s why CNN has him in the anchor chair and not Bernard Shaw or Walter Cronkite or, for that matter, someone really smart from a major university or you. Ratings… The news is (sadly) a business that is now run totally for profit and not quality. Profit comes from maximizing the number of people 15 to 49 who watch your network. Everything CNN does is oriented toward that and so, indirectly, the American public have, indeed, voted for CNN’s anchors.

    (Of course, to believe that one has to believe that CNN’s management is, in fact, smart enough to find the optimal way to attract their intended audience. I actually DON’T believe that, but I do believe it is somewhat of a close proxy.)

    Now, could you build a totally DIFFERENT newscast / debate / etc that would be more open and higher quality? I believe the answer is “yes”. However, in our current world I have to agree with the previous poster that if you just take whatever.com and ask whoever wants to to vote on what questions the candidate answer you will get a stupider, worse debate.

    ejw

  7. Hi Eric
    I might agree with you if a network ran say 1,000 different anchors and then whittled down to the ones the public likes the best, but they don’t.
    No one actually asked me about Anderson Cooper or Katie Couric for that matter. There she was. Just sort of happened. Did I have a choice? Well, I supposed I could have switched to NBC.. but that’s not a really great choice – kind of like Crest v. Colgate. The cool thing about the web is you really can have lots of choices. And the public will tell you what they like. They really will. But we have to get to the point where we trust the free market. We talk a lot about free markets, but when it comes to the marketplace of ideas, we are still living in the Soviet Union. The News Politburo puts Anderson Cooper in front of you and its take it or leave it. And if you leave it, the Politburo reassembles in the dark bowels of the ever enigmatic Time Warner Kremlin and out pops… Aaron Brown .. or not. Like the new dictator of Bulgaria, they just sort of appear. Then for them its sink or swim.

  8. Complaining about how the network picks anchors now? What a laugh. It’s no different than how you pick your VJs. Your hypocrisy is showing again.

    Someone will always do the picking before the viewers get their chance to choose what to watch. Seeing you try and turn that into yet another weak slap against a business which you have yet to succeed in, other than training people for jobs they will never keep, is a joke. You need a reality check. But I guess you already have that with your lack of support from VC folks in CA!

  9. Dear$,
    If this is ‘yet to succeed’, I’ll take it.
    Thanks! no complaints here.
    However, if you don’t believe me, here is a comment from Adam Cohen at The New York Times.

    “Whatever the ideology, these questions had an authentic feel that is too often lacking in the scripted words of paid professionals. The questions could become even more real in future debates, if the organizers drop the filtering and let YouTube users pick the questions”

    Even over at Fox, The NY Times must have some credibility. I mean, I know it’s not The NY Post

  10. An “authentic feel”. This from someone in the newspaper industry.

    It’s not about the “feel” it’s about the content. The youtube debate was entertainment. Little or no real issues got addressed. The political process was not advanced by it. It was in fact muddied with ill informed people more interested in seeing their own faces on the screen and promoting their specific viewpoints than in addressing real issues that matter.

    Of course you will push “feel” over content. It’s much cheaper to produce.

  11. “content”, ri-i-i-ight.

    you must be referring to that crap on regular tv (which ! haven’t turned on in over a week).
    why?
    because of the content.

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