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New York Times takes a tip from YouTube

October 23, 2007

I was just scanning the New York Times website, looking for something of interest to post about, when I stumbled across an embedded video in the margin of the U.S. Politics page. The video is called “Republican Debate: Analyzing the Details”. Not only is there a video transcript and an accompanying text transcript, but the debate has been conveniently divided up into clickable sections, such as: “Republicans vs. Hillary Clinton,” “Health Care,” and “Who’s More Conservative?” Also, the good people at the New York Times have included a transcript analyzer, which lists the exact number of words spoken by each participant (excluding the moderator, Rudy Guiliani tops the list with 2158, while Jim Greer and Charlie Crist each have a measly 60), and which visually breaks up the debate into a weird, bar code-esque format. Talk about user-friendly.

When YouTube first exploded into the internet scene, being able to watch a news clip or political debate through a website at one’s leisure was an exciting novelty. Later, as we learned from guest speaker James Kotecki, YouTube began to transform from a sort of political vessel into a political instigator. Now it appears as though the trend is catching on. I have no idea whether or not New York Times Online has been posting videos for a while now, but regardless–it’s fascinating to see to what extent news sources are now attempting to cater to their readers. Now, not only are you not obligated to plan your evening around a scheduled debate, but you don’t even have to watch all of it to find out what candidates said about issues that concern you.

The only negative aspect of this sort of convenience that I can see is that it could perpetuate–and probably even intensify–the closed-mindedness present in many debate watchers. When these people watch entire debates, they may choose to ignore opposing viewpoints regarding topics about which they’ve already made up their minds, but at least they’re exposed to these opposing viewpoints. If more and more people are electing to pick and choose what pieces of the debates they’d like to see, then it will become less and less likely for watchers on each side of the political spectrum to challenge what they already believe.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chr1sAU permalink
    October 26, 2007 5:50 am

    Wow. That’s some good detective work. The New York Times streaming interactive video is an incredible tool! While it’s not the same quality as YouTube (it’s constantly rebuffering, causing it to skip every 2 seconds), it has its advantages over YouTube. The interaction options were incredible! And I think you’re right.. this is the future of debate.
    But like you asked, is that a good thing, or not? With so much interaction a viewer can really specify exactly what he or she wants to see. No longer does one have to sit through an hour of the candidates talking about themselves – the “chapters,” if you will, allow a reader to skip ahead to the sections he or she wants to see.
    Your skepticism is justified, in that such interactivity will probably cause even LESS attention being given to less popular candidates.

    THAT brings up an interesting point…

    From what I’ve seen the New York Times interactive video was one of the best set-ups. The debate itself was also exactly what we have been advocating for in our Dissident Media class..actually with this very blog!
    The structure of last Sunday’s debate went So: the moderator would ask a candidate to compare himself to another candidate based on a certain issue, OR the moderator would ask a candidate to compare another candidate to HIMSELF. That’s a good way to mix up the debate recipe…

    But. What if such interaction isn’t increasing the debatosphere, like we’re hoping it will, what if isn’t attracting new viewers, new voters, or just a new image to the long-broken debate structure? What then? Has our entire blogging experience been in vain?

    The New York Times video you found (again, kudos) exemplifies a lot of what we’re trying to promote in this blog. And I really enjoyed watching the video. I found it unbelievably convenient to be able to watch only ten minutes of the debate, and select (!) the issues I wanted to see debated!! i LOVE technology!

    But the question we need to be asking now is…

    Is the ability to be able to screen out an opposing candidate’s views desirable? Should we be able to increase our closed-mindedness?
    Maybe that’s not what we’re doing. After all, I’m a liberal and I enjoyed watching Giuliani duke it out with Thompson.

  2. Bonzo Goes To Bitburg permalink
    October 26, 2007 3:07 pm

    I have to agree with what you said at the bottom of your post, this could easily lead to more close-mindedness in our society. We are already lacking any real debate in our society and by adding a system such as this, where one does not even have to watch the full debate or listen to other opinions will further the demise of the little actual debate that is left. So, although it is an advantage that one can now read or watch debates without being present, we may want to consider the detrimental effects something like this could have on our society, especially when we are already so lacking in political debate.

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