July 24, 2007

Today's Front Pages Analysis

Democrats' debate enters 21st century with blunt questions from YouTube users

Although there are purists in the parish who contend that we haven’t had a real presidential candidate debate since the Lincoln-Douglas days, last night’s answering of public questions by eight Democratic presidential wannabes hit the right spot with many U.S. dailies. What made this session different was that, for the first time, only questions forwarded from the video Web site YouTube by the public were used – and it showed on the Page One approach.

The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama has a story below the fold reporting “Voters take on Democrats in first YouTube debate,” while The Bakersfield Californian has a brief, top-of-the-page piece noting “Videos produce blunt questions” although the Los Angeles Times has a big studio photo of the candidates with the head “YouTube debate brings questioners into picture.” The Rocky Mountain News in Denver has photos of some of the questioners adorning Page One with the head “New forum, new faces” followed by “A snowman, a bald woman, a man toting a weapon.  Democratic presidential hopefuls field blunt questions as a nation tries Web-driven dialogue.”

The News Journal in Wilmington, Del., plays it as the lead: “Debate offbeat, often blunt.” The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia offers it straight with “YouTube viewers confront hopefuls” as does the Chicago Tribune with “Blunt viewers steer debate,” while The Sun in Baltimore notes that “Issues are familiar but format is new as Democrats debate.”  The Charlotte Observer in North Carolina plays it all over Page One, with photos and the head “Answering to voters.”  In the nation’s capital, The Washington Post offers a big photo and the head “Public voice adds edge to debate” and The New York Times has a photo at the bottom of Page One and the story on page 18.

There were other approaches. We looked and looked but found nothing on the subject on Page One of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and almost nothing in The Detroit News except for one line “Voters do asking on YouTube. 4A.”  And The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville reported “Access denied,” contending that “For most low-income people, YouTube is more like TheirTube because they can’t afford a Web connection to ask a question or anything else.”  Well, now… .

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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