Blogger extraordinaire Jeff Jarvis viewed CNN's YouTube debate with the Dems and concludes:
TV doesn't know how to have a conversation. TV knows how to perform. The event's moderator, CNN's Anderson Cooper, behaved almost apologetically about the intrusion of these real people, who speak without benefit of make-up. He interrupted the candidates constantly, allowing them shallow soundbites a fraction the length and depth of even a YouTube video.
So I wish we'd have the YouTube debate on YouTube and leave TV behind. A few of the candidates are beginning to answer voters' questions and challenges directly, small-camera-to-small-camera. Thus they are opening up a dialogue between candidate and constituent that was not possible before the internet: a conversation in our new public square. That is how elections should be held, amid the citizens.
Meanwhile, Marie Cocco writes in the Oregon Statesman-Journal that the YouTube spectacle sucked for a different reason, and calls for a return to the high school gym:
For me, the novelty of the YouTube debate wasn't its newness. It was its undertone of crassness.
A chronic complaint about contemporary politics is that campaigns lack civility. They're dominated by sneering sound bites, cable-television shouting matches and tactics that can transform an opponent's silly gaffe into an alleged character flaw. We lament the diminished respect for both the political process and the offices that politicians seek. Not long ago, the infamous boxers-or-briefs question put to Bill Clinton during an MTV telecast brought a national gasp of disapproval—both because the question was asked, and answered. Now we're unperturbed when candidates are quizzed on whether they've discussed sex in a "medically accurate and age appropriate" way.
There is something about the Internet that makes people feel they can be blunt or irreverent or even profane—the language of instant messaging and e-mail. This isn't the tone at a traditional town hall meeting where candidates take questions, and where those asking the questions are amid their neighbors, co-workers and friends.
Abandoning the electronic town hall and returning to the high school gym or church basement won't make presidential politics less democratic. Just a bit more decorous.