Dec 022007

CNN continued its history of providing political theater rather than either political news or commentary last week with the latest Republican Presidential Debate. They supposedly teamed up with YouTube to gather questions from the masses for the candidates to answer. But, according to Wired, it was all another sham-

“The notion that the CNN-YouTube debate represents a grass-roots triumph of the internet age is laughable,” wrote Marty Kaplan, a research professor at the University of California’s Annenberg School for Communication. “The 4,000+ videos are pawns; the questioners are involuntary shills, deployed by the network producers in no less deliberate, calculating and manipulative a fashion as the words and stories fed by teleprompters into anchors’ mouths.”

But [CNN senior vice president David] Bohrman, a 53-year-old technology geek and network TV news veteran, says allowing internet users to vote on which videos to air would reduce, not enhance, the quality of the debate — a lesson he says he learned during a brief stint at the doomed online media company

“Guess what, there are troublemakers,” says Bohrman. “When I was at Pseudo, and we ran live video chats, we had (people typing) ‘Fuck You’ in 98-point-type, which appeared on the screen.”

He’s also concerned that the questioning could be manipulated. “It’s really easy for the campaigns to game the system,” he says. “You’ve seen how effective the Ron Paul campaign (supporters) have been on the web — you don’t know if there are 40 or four million of them. It would be easy for a really organized campaign to stack the deck.”

Community-chosen videos would also rob the debate of spontaneity, because the candidates would know well in advance what question they will be asked.

But in the end, Bohrman just doesn’t trust people on the internet to pick the interesting questions. A recently launched project by TechPresident called 10 Questions allows users to vote up or down on video questions that will then be sent to the presidential campaigns, but he’s not impressed with the results.

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