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CNN/YouTube Debates: Why & How

How did the CNN/YouTube debates come about? And how will they work exactly? CNN DC VP David Bohrman described the debates in a conference call with reporters this morning.

“We took the crazy idea internally, then to YouTube and then to the Democratic Party and we were able to convince them that this was the future,” Bohrman said.

He is hoping for thousands of video questions to be submitted. “CNN will be really managing the editorial decision making as to what clips we ultimately take with us to the Citadel as clips percolate through the system.”

Click continued to read his complete remarks…




“All right, great. It really is the next logical step for us, you know from. If you look back really quickly to the last couple of election cycles, we have begun, really as Jon said to reinvent how we actually do politics, whether it is the anchoring from the floor of a convention or the video wall or the blog role that we have dealt with in both the ’06 election and even back to ’04.

So as we were beginning to figure out how we mechanically will carry out the debates this year, it struck us that first we needed to start to reinvent the traditional debate, which I think you saw part of last week in New Hampshire. But it was really, I think to some of us, obvious that we needed to reach out much further into the Web and into the community and use YouTube, which is this great engine for user generated content as the gateway in.

So we, you know, we took the crazy idea internally, then to YouTube and then to the Democratic Party and we were able to convince them that this was the future and they sanctioned this debate, which really helps make it a home run.

So mechanically what we will do, at the end of the process, I am hoping for thousands of video questions to be submitted. We will and in a close partnership with the folks over at YouTube, but we will be, CNN will be really managing the editorial decision making as to what clips we ultimately take with us to the Citadel as clips percolate through the system.

And we will be selecting the batch of clips that we will take with us to Charleston. Ultimately that will be, it will be up to us. It will be up to me in the truck in Charleston what questions actually get used. I think you’ll see a sense of the format of the debate if you look at the first halves of the two New Hampshire debates where the questions were really, we use this term sort of trigger questions or starter questions.

That then led to a brief period, two, three, four minutes of follow up and contacts which I think was really helpful. And I think Anderson will be doing that role here. So what you will see in the hall is a couple of additions to our debate set which we will bring from New Hampshire to Charleston. There will be an enormous video projector as part of the set.

The candidates will all have a flat panel video screen on there podium, that’s never been seen before. And Anderson will lead into a clip. I will probably run a Google Earth animation ad of each clip to show where the person is located. And then we will run in a designed off frame, graphic frame the YouTube bit of video.

We are asking questions to be kept at 30 seconds or less because it’s really important to spread the word that questions that are longer than 30 just aren’t going to get used and may not even be considered. And we’re expecting some really inventive, again very good questions. Anderson will lead into a clip.

We will direct it at a question if it’s not self directed at a candidate. And then hopefully we’ll spend a couple of minutes following up with that candidate or other candidates on that topic. At that right time we will run another clip.

The debate will be two hours. If you do the math, it’s sort of 20ish or 30ish questions – more or less and that will depend on the dynamics of the candidates and the response and what the look and feel of this all is. But we’re really looking forward to pulling this off and I think re-defining Presidential debates.”

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