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YouTube users to ask questions in US presidential debate

19 June, 2007
By Allison Orr

CNN and YouTube have joined forces to sponsor the first ever presidential debate that will allow questions from the public via user-generated videos.  Says CNN’s DC bureau chief, David Bohrman: "This is the most democratic of all possible structures."

The first of two debates, for the Democrat candidates, will take place on 23 July and will feature a 20-30 minute segment where candidates will answer questions put to them via videos uploaded to YouTube.

Anyone can upload a question, and YouTube users will be able to comment on the questions beforehand and will also be able to later comment on the candidates’ responses.  However, those put to the candidates will not necessarily be those that generate the most views or comments on YouTube, but will be chosen by the CNN political team, who will choose "the most creative and compelling" entries.

YouTube has provided guidelines, including "be original", "be personal", "keep it quick" and "make it look good".  As of today, there are 45 entries, all short videos, comprising simply the questioner speaking to the camera.  The questions are on issues such as the Iraq war, the US budget deficit, gay marriage, abortion, and even aliens.  While you can direct a question to a specific candidate, almost all are directed more generally at all candidates. 

The second debate for Republican candidates will be held on 17 September.

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