How CNN and YouTube Debates Will Work

CNN is partnering with YouTube to allow people to upload videos of themselves addressing questions to the candidates in the upcoming U.S. presidential primary debates.

Anderson Cooper will direct the clips to candidates and moderate the discussion. Between twenty and thirty questions will make it into the two-hour program. We listened in on a conference call with the press to try to get an idea of how the debates will shape up.

Things you probably won’t see in the clips chosen for include footage of same-sex newlyweds, the war in Iraq or mushroom clouds. What you will find are earnest Americans asking pointed questions.

How pointed will come down to a decision by CNN’s D.C. Bureau Chief David Bohrman. “I think you’ll see a sense of the format of the debate if you look at the first halves of the two New Hampshire debates,” he suggested today.

The submission guidelines ask for clips to be under thirty seconds, for you to state your name and hometown, and can be addressed to one or more candidates and are subject to YouTube’s standard terms of use. You can add FCC regulations against obscenity on top of that, since they’ll be aired live on cable television. And think “honest and personable” rather than “frustrated and angry.” Selected entrants will be flown to the debate to offer their reactions to candidate’s answers to be featured on the CitizenTube vlog.

Candidate answers will also be posted on YouTube the night of the debate, and users will be allowed to rate, comment and post video responses to all the clips in question. So if you aren’t selected to go on the air, you can still make a splash online. “The beautiful thing about YouTube’s platform is it extends beyond just a single night,” YouTube’s head of news and politics Steve Grove added in the call.

If you’re just looking for views, I’d hitch my horse to Barack Obama or John Edwards, the pair getting the most traffic. The Democrats go first on July 23 in South Carolina, followed by the Republicans on September 17 in Florida. All the candidates can already be found on YouTube’s YouChoose 08 page.