Skip to main content

CNN And YouTube Team Up For Presidential Debates

The future president of the United States is taking your questions via YouTube.

CNN and the user-generated site will co-host their first DNC-sanctioned debate July 23 in Charleston, South Carolina where candidates will be presented with 30-second video questions from users.

"I think these debates represent a giant leap forward in the way news organizations cover elections," said John Klein, president of CNN/U.S.

The second YouTube CNN debate – among Republican candidates – will take place Sept. 17 in Florida. CNN’s Anderson Cooper will moderate both debates.

Users can upload their videos now through July 22 on where they’ll also find tips for getting their video accepted: "Make it look good – speak loudly and keep that camera steady"; "Be original"; "Be personal – your perspective is important."

Submissions can be viewed on YouTube, but unlike the site's traditional content, most-viewed videos will not be ranked in an effort to keep the candidates’ in the dark about which questions CNN and YouTube political editors will choose to present.

"We need to be making the decisions about what we’re going to ask the candidates," said David Bohrman, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. "They can’t go to school by just looking at the 25 top questions (on YouTube). It’s not like we want to hide anything, we just don’t want to give the candidates a tip-off as to what they’re going to be asked."

Producers expect to present 20 to 30 questions in each debate.

The set will be considerably more elaborate than those for previous debates. There will be a giant video projector showing each submission with Google Earth animation pinpointing the questioners’ locale. Each of the candidates also will have a flat-screen monitor at their podiums.

Debates have become increasingly predictable as media savvy candidates’ have become more risk-averse. Unlike past debates, where journalists or carefully screened citizens have posed questions, the CNN YouTube debates, say producers, will inject the process with a level of unpredictability and authenticity.

"I think we will be amazed at the inventiveness and passion of the questions that we get," said CNN’s Bohrman.

Users will be able to watch and respond to debate footage via YouTubes community feature Citizentube, where any gaffs by candidates are likely to unspool ad infinitum. But candidates, already resigned to the inherent perpetuity of the internet, were eager to take part in the venture, said Steve Grove, YouTube’s editor of news and politics.

Candidates "

know they need to be on YouTube and they want to be on YouTube," said Grove. "They know the eyeballs are there and yes, transparency is part of it. But we believe that a level of authenticity to the political dialogue is what voters and candidates are really striving for. This allows everyone to pull back the political veneer and communicate directly."