There has been a lot of controversy today regarding last nights Republican CNN/YouTube debate, during which CNN asked Republican Presidential candidates 40 or so questions carefully selected from thousands submitted via YouTube by ordinary citizens. The gist of the controversy is that people are questioning the editorial process CNN used to select the questions and CNN’s vetting of the people asking the questions (it is coming out today that a lot of Democrats got questions in).

I personally have never been a big fan of the CNN/YouTube debate format and found some of the editorial choices made by CNN in both debates to be a bit baffling. I understand the symbolic value of having people submit questions through YouTube. I really do. However, to me having CNN editors pick and choose which questions to ask pretty much defeats the whole point of a “people-powered” debate. I think the CNN/YouTube process actually gives CNN more control over the things than a traditional debate format would. By putting the producers in a position where they can cherry pick from a vault of thousands of varied videos, you give them the power to choose inflammatory/off topic/goofy subjects that would be completely out of bounds otherwise. Kid, meet candy story.

The power of the social web is that it provides real people with access to unfiltered information, or even better information that has been filtered by people they know and trust. I don’t see anything revolutionary about a debate where CNN serves as our filter, just like they do every single day in choosing what they put on TV and their website. To me, this was a traditional, mainstream media driven debate masquerading as people-powered discourse. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.

I think something like 10 Questions, where questions are voted on by real people instead of handpicked by CNN, is a better model.  Ultimately the power is in the hands of the people who determine what questions are asked.

That’s my two cents.

What do you think?

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.