As monolithic media corporations continue to gobble each other up, creating vast media empire likes Time Warner and NewsCorp, one may find themselves asking if the common man’s perspective matters anymore. Enter YouTube. The Internet has brought with it a democratic process of the direct participation, which hasn’t been seen since the old-school Town Hall Meeting. The question is: How will the media adjust to accommodate this growing trend?
Much to my surprise, CNN actually had the balls produce an entire Democratic Debate comprised completely of questions submitted on YouTube by average Americans! Ringmaster Anderson Cooper did an excellent job of insisting the candidates answer the questions, and derided them each time they veered off into campaign rhetoric. This forced candidates to directly engage with the voters.
The result was a frank discussion about issues ingrained in the national conscious. We got a first hand look at the effects of a poor health care system, a sobering query from the father of a lost soldier, and a pertinent question about global warming from a melting snowman. The debate in general seemed to catch the candidates off guard, providing a relief from the scripted nature of every other debate in recent history.
Most importantly, this untested approach may lay the groundwork for how future debates will be handled in the new media era. It may be hard for networks to go back to the traditional method. When the public sees how effective and informative the YouTube method was, the moderator may become insignificant. Moving forward, we should keep in mind the following question: How can we use the Internet in conjunction with traditional media to allow the average person to better participate in the democratic process? The possibilities are endless. Let’s choose carefully.