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CNN / YouTube Debates - My Message To Steve Grove and Dave Bohrman

This video and post present my message to Steve Grove, the News and Politics editor for CNN, and to Dave Bohrman, the Executive Producer of the CNN / YouTube Debates for CNN.



My take is that CNN/YouTube was lucky to realize the ratings record that was set for the debate, and this was achieved for two reasons: 1) the time of year -- it's the fall holiday season, and 2) the fact that all of the Republican Presidential Candidates were there, which is no small feat.

Still, CNN/YouTube handled this debate differently than the Democratic Debate. First, the level of promotion of the event was dramatically scaled back compared to the first. Second, there were fewer questions picked out of the 5,200 that were submitted : 34 questions versus 43 for the first debate. Third, there was an annoying tendency to pick Blacks who submitted questions about Black issues, when there were videos from people who were not Black, but did ask questions about Blacks and the Republican Party.

(As a momentary aside, I think that practice shows an America that does not exist. It shows an America where only Blacks care about Black or minority issues, and not the real America, where a diverse set of people care about all Americans, and will ask questions regarding how Blacks are treated. To not show this -- the real America -- is criminal and paints America as far more racist than it really is. This country has come a long way and is better than it's ever been.)

CNN/YouTube also didn't handle its video talent properly. In the video I present myself as an example. In the begining I was -- and still am -- part of the sample video for the CNN/YouTube Debates. I'm also on the YTDebates channel, at least as of this writing and you can see my photo on the channel here in this blog post. So when I learned that YouTubers were being flown out by Google to the debates, I thought -- rightfully -- that somone would call.

Nope. Didn't happen.

I also sent an inquiry to determine if this was the case, and didn't get an answer from Steve Grove.

So it makes one wonder -- in this case, me -- what's going on over at CNN / YouTube and why they treat people in this way - or at least me. But given the thousands of people who have made and submitted videos, and the other talent that was promoted, I can't believe it's just me that had the problem.

CNN itself showed little regard for my time when they contact me for the first debate. Three show producers contacted me separately and in one case I thought I was to get on a flight. Then didn't get a call back. Then was essentially made to wait for a few days, then got a call saying I wasn't being flown out, only to get a call from another show flying me to New York.

Nuts.

What bothered me this time around was not that I was not called, but Steve didn't answer my emails attempting to learn what he and YouTube were going to do. If they'd said "Zennie, we don't need you this time", or "Hey CNN thinks you're an Obama supporter, and they've got a problem with that" then I'd be fine. I just wanted communication. I didn't get it.

As for the debate itself there were a lot of problems in addtion to the ones I discussed above. Not a single video question on Health Care was presented, leaving one to think the Republican Party doens't care about it. Is that CNN's call or the Republican Party? One has to assume they were working together. But in eliminating that series of questions, CNN / YouTube and the Republican Party pissed off a country.

Plus, CNN / YouTube did't tell video submitters they were going to do this, and the video makers -- given the Democratic Debate with YouTube, had full reason to think they would do so. Moreover, CNN / YouTube didn't tell anyone what they were going to do -- I learned it from CNN's David Bohrman being quoted in the New York Times.

That's not good.

In closing, I think CNN / YouTube owes YouTubers an appology and I'm also disappointed with how Steve Grove handled things this time around. I have high standards for him and I expect that -- givent the historic nature of what he's doing with YouTube and CNN that he will reach and maintain them. It's not personal -- I like Steve -- just professional.

I don't know Dave Bohrman, but I expect that he's a fine and upstanding person who will take these crticisms to heart and act on them. I think all of us want to see the CNN / YouTube system reach its potential.