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Critics: YouTube Debate a Tweak, Not an Overhaul

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By Allan Holmes July 24, 2007

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The reviews of CNN/You Tube presidential debate are in, and it seems no political analyst, reporter or blogger was particularly impressed. The debate, described by CNN as the first that was "solely in the voters' hands," allowed "ordinary" voters to submit via YouTube videos of themselves asking questions directly to the Democratic candidates running for president.

For John Dickerson, a political analyst for CNN who wrote an article for Slate.com, described some of the videos as "so washed-out, it made you want to dial 911 to report a hostage taking. ... But what the majority of the nearly 40 YouTube videos provided was authenticity, which is usually as hard to find in presidential debates as humility."

Brian Braiker of Newsweek was far from impressed. He wrote that "for all the hype, this debate was not effectively that much different from all the others to date."

The same ho-hum reaction was provided by Michael Falcone. Blogging for The New York Times, Falcone wrote that "... in some ways, we had seen it all before. Since the beginning of the year, the Democrats have taken part in numerous unofficial debates and forums and faced questions on many of the same issues."

Some political reporters just skipped right over writing about the format as if this whole YouTube phenomenon is so 2005 (the year YouTube was founded). Ben Smith of Politico.com mentioned the homemade videos barely in passing to get to what the candidates talked about. "Amid the entertainment of a talking snowman and rapping education advocate, however, the candidates drew clear distinctions on crucial questions of foreign policy in a debate that circled repeatedly around Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's positions on the war in Iraq."

Judging form the comments Smith received on his article, the American voter had mixed reviews for the format, as well. "I'm all for creativity and the integration of technology into everyday life but the submitted YouTube questions from last night really distracted, IMHO, from the debate," wrote dallenva.

"I liked that the answers weren't professionally developed (even though they were highly screened in the selection process but that's just the way it is) and that they weren't pre-given to the candidates - at least to my knowledge," dallasmsl wrote.

Ordinary citizens also, of course, include government employees and contractors, presumably readers of this blog. So, how did the CNN/YouTube debate strike you? Let us hear from you by clicking on the comment link below.

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