Scoring Debate Points

Originally published at National Journal
By K. Daniel Glover

CHARLESTON, S.C. — What happens when a wild range of non-journalists get to grill candidates in a presidential debate? After several weeks of hype, CNN and YouTube answered that question here this week in an innovative two-hour event that featured questions posed via video clips.

The result was a mix of serious and silly questions — and serious ones in silly packaging, such as the snowman who asked the eight Democratic candidates what they would do about global warming “to ensure that my son will live a full and happy life.”

Other questioners came across as plain scary. A Michigan man brandished an assault weapon as he asked the presidential wannabes what they would do to protect “my baby.” New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson gave a polite answer about the importance of instant background checks for gun buyers, but Sen. Joseph Biden of Delaware lashed out at the questioner. “I don’t know that he is mentally qualified to be owning that gun,” Biden said. “I’m being serious…. I hope he doesn’t come looking for me.”

Many of the debate questions were ones that professional journalists probably wouldn’t ask. To Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois: Are you black enough? To Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York: Are you feminine enough, and would you ever be taken seriously as president in talks with Arab nations that treat women as second-class citizens?

The candidates were quizzed on whether they support reparations for slavery, think that women should be eligible for the draft, and have talked to their kids about sex. But the questioners also touched on more-traditional debate topics: the Iraq war, genocide in Darfur, health care, education policy, and alternative energy.

Some of the queries were framed with precision and effectively exposed the candidates’ differences. A question about whether the candidates would agree to unconditional diplomatic meetings with the leaders of Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Syria, and Venezuela revealed distinctions among the three front-running Democrats — Clinton, Obama, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.


‘Obama Girl’: A Crush On Mike Gravel?

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

Remember Amber Lee Ettinger, the actress who became an online video sensation as “Obama Girl” a few weeks back?

Well, her latest role was as a video journalist at Monday’s CNN/YouTube debate in Charleston, S.C. Presumably, she was in the “spin room” to interview the object of her affection, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. But Obama never showed (at least not while I was in the spin room), so Obama Girl had to settle for the likes of Mike Gravel.

Here are some other snapshots from the “spin room” after the debate, and you can check the new Flickr page for Technology Daily to see the rest of our photo coverage of the first user-generated presidential debate:

Actor Richard Schiff, who played Toby Ziegler on “The West Wing”

Elizabeth Edwards, wife of candidate John Edwards

Joe Trippi, adviser to John Edwards


Steve Grove, the news and politics editor at YouTube

Republican new media consultant David All, one of the bloggers granted access to the debate hall


YouTube Debates: How Innovative Are They?

Originally published at Technology Daily
By K. Daniel Glover

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Old media stalwart CNN and new media upstart YouTube will break new politics and technology ground here Monday evening by hosting an Internet and voter-driven presidential debate. But before the first video question is put to the Democratic candidates on the stage, observers are asking their own questions about the process behind the debate.

The organizers of the debate — and another one like it for Republican candidates on Sept. 17 in Florida — bill it as a “history-making” event. The CNN/YouTube debates take to a new level the “town hall” concept introduced to presidential debates in 1992.

Since June 14, anyone with access to a computer and a webcam has been able to submit videotaped questions to the candidates via YouTube’s Internet file-sharing service. By Sunday’s deadline, 2,989 questions were submitted. CNN journalists screened the questions and decided which ones to ask when the cable network airs the debate live at 7 p.m.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, called the approach “a logical evolution of the marriage of new media and old media” that has been occurring in recent years. He added that it has made the Internet the “center focus” of politics just 11 years after its “coming-out moment” in the 1996 presidential race.

“This solidifies the notion that the Internet is a prime marketplace [of ideas], the commons of politics,” he said.

People in the online politics world agree — but they said they were hoping for more of a revolution than the evolution Rainie described.

The Broadband Question That Won’t Be Asked

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

CHARLESTON, S.C. — When Democratic presidential candidates take the debate stage here tonight, odds are good that they won’t be asked a question by Andrew McLaughlin, the head of Google global public policy. It would be a PR nightmare to give one of the 20 questions reserved for the air to a top official in the company that is co-sponsoring the debate.

But asked at lunch today what question he would like the candidates to answer, McLaughlin waxed eloquent about America’s declining rank in global broadband. He wants to know what the candidates would do to stop the decline as tallied by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He also wants the candidates to talk more about the forthcoming auction of airwaves in the 700-megahertz band of spectrum.

With hot issues like the Iraq war, immigration and health care on Americans’ minds, the odds of those kinds of questions being asked on the air seem slim.

McLaughlin said, however, that he is heartened to see some candidates discussing such issues. He noted, for instance, that Democrat John Edwards did when he visited Google’s campus earlier this year.

You can see that entire one-hour chat, along with others by candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain, Ron Paul and Bill Richardson, at YouTube.

Video Questions: The People’s Choices

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

CHARLESTON, S.C. — CNN will be the filter for tonight’s Democratic presidential debate here, deciding which questions submitted via the YouTube video-sharing site to ask of the candidates.

But Gallup, which has been involved in more traditional town-hall presidential debates since 1992, has the scoop on what questions should be asked based on popularity in the American electorate. None of them involve technology directly. Here’s what really matters to voters, according to Gallup Guru:

Americans would first and foremost ask about Iraq. In fact, to follow the voters’ interests and concerns carefully, I think that about a third of the questions in Monday’s debate should be about Iraq. Following that, Americans would ask the candidates about the economy. Then would come two specific issues: health care and immigration.

Finally, Americans want to know how the candidates would handle issues relating to the process of government itself — how it can be made to function better. Congress and the presidency get very low ratings of confidence and ratings of honesty. People have little faith in the process. What would these candidates do to change this?

What To Expect At Tonight’s YouTube Debate

Originally published at Tech Daily Dose

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Google and its YouTube subsidiary hosted a luncheon for journalists and bloggers here today in advance of tonight’s Democratic presidential debate, which will feature video questions posed by users of the YouTube video-sharing site.

Steve Grove, YouTube’s news and politics editor, offered a glimpse into what people will see on the stage. The candidates will stand before a backdrop of “swimming-pool-size” video screens, and each of the candidates also will have personal video monitors at their podiums. Twenty questions of the nearly 3,000 submitted in the past few weeks will be aired live.

Grove said about 800 of the questions were received Sunday, the deadline for entries, and all of them have as much chance of being asked as those submitted earlier. In fact, he estimated that a third to half of the questions were submitted over the past three to four days, in large part thanks to CNN promoting the debate in a series of specials throughout last week.

Grove added that the debate will “live on” at YouTube long after the debate airs, and users will be able to comment on the winning videos and more.