Tonight is the Republicans’ YouTube/CNN debate, where, instead of journalists asking all the questions, the rest of us were asked to record questions and upload them to YouTube. CNN then chooses the questions they want to use, and the would-be-presidents answer and discuss.

There almost wasn’t a Republican version of these debates, after Mick Romney and others saw the Democrats’ version back in July. One of the questions chosen had a melting snowman asking questions about global warming, you see. Clearly frivolous. And so Romney planned to cancel. Several other Republicans also claimed to have schedule conflicts. Anyway, CNN rescheduled the debates and has apparently succeeded in talking them all into participating.

TechPresident points out that CNN chooses which videos to show based on criteria they haven’t actually disclosed – but it certainly seems reasonable to assume that at least one criteria is that it make “good television”. The public haven’t been given the opportunity to cast their votes – but Techpresident’s attempted to find something close to the public’s choice by showing us the 40 most viewed questions currently on YouTube, starting with number 40.

I haven’t actually viewed each of these videos, so I’m going to have to trust Techpresident when they say there are no snowmen.

As an aside: for the Norwegian elections in September, one of the newspapers, VG, set up something similar. They actually went to public places and aimed cameras at people, asking them to ask politicians a question, so the video aesthetics is rather different – here are the submissions, I can’t find an archive of the actual broadcast. This way of collecting questions may have been necessary in order to get enough submissions in a small country like Norway, though you really do miss out on the YouTube aesthetics. Also, the debate was not televised on traditional television, but simply broadcast on the newspaper’s own “net TV” channel. Presumably the attention this got would have been far greater if one of the major traditional television channels had run it.

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