Wired.com’s Sarah Lai Stirland summerizes the changes happening in the world of “Town Hall Meetings” and electoral debates with the advent of more constituent-centered, web-savvy debates. Her take: the MySpace/MTV style of openness is much preferred:
Republican presidential candidate John McCain performed well in an internet-enabled national town-hall event Monday. But the real winner was MTV’s and MySpace’s vibrant web-savvy format, which managed to hotlink the candidate to a national audience of voting youth, while making CNN’s YouTube collaboration look about as wired as the rabbit ears on your grandfather’s old Magnavox.
Of course the problem, as she alludes to in her report, is less to do with technology and more to do with more journalistic egoism. The journalistic community seems incapable of accepting that people are smart enough to ask their own intelligent questions without screeners. MTV, by contrast, has always had the freedom to try something different. Sometimes, that becomes vapid beach party V.J.s and scantily clad co-ed buttocks; sometimes, its penetrating questions by an informed and active electorate. So it goes.
Considering the fact that CNN’s debates really just allowed poorly-photographed private citizens ask the questions that some journo-bot CNN anchor with a ear-piece would have asked anyway, the YouTube CNN debates really don’t offer much in the way of newness. Considering the fact that modern debates have turned into primp-and-preen showcases, high school “ooh, snap!” dramas and one minute answers to over simplified questions covering vastly complex subjects, there’s not really much reason to think that this standard format hasn’t played itself out to death.