During the memorable 2006 Connecticut race for US Senate, the world learned of the power of Youtube and citizen journalism. In late September I was interviewed via phone by "The Guardian", a major UK media outlet, as part of a story looking at Youtube's impact on culture and politics during the days before Google's purchase of the service.
They asked me about how we in Connecticut used video on Youtube to report and influence the election.
From The Guardian:
In the meantime, one corner of the US was caught up in the first YouTube campaign. In Connecticut, Senator Joe Lieberman - Al Gore's running mate in 2000, and the kind of Democrat who sits so close to the Republicans as to make no difference - was engaged in a bitter fight, built along the faultline of his support for the Iraq war, to regain his party's nomination against Ned Lamont, a more liberally inclined Connecticut businessman who makes his money from cable TV. For Lieberman's tech-minded opponents, YouTube was a gift: they simply poured anti-Lieberman and pro-Lamont footage on to the site, linked the footage to other blogs and websites, and then watched its aftershocks ripple out into the wider world.
Among the most celebrated examples were film of George Bush greeting the senator with what appeared to be a kiss, and TV clips of a long line of conservatives, from Vice-President Dick Cheney to the notorious TV evangelist Pat Robertson, offering Lieberman their support. In addition, there was a steady trickle of clips in which pro-Lamont activists pointed cameras at Lieberman and his aides and asked them testing questions. They played their part in a shock result: Lieberman lost out to his challenger, and is now defending his seat as an independent.
Bob Adams, 47, works as an IT specialist in the Connecticut town of Milford. Over the summer, he devoted a great deal of his spare time to anti-Lieberman film-making, managing to confront the senator (his best shot came with a testy encounter about donations from Wal-Mart), and posting about 50 clips to YouTube. "This is another option for people who want to see what's really going on," he says. "And it's a very democratic thing: anyone with a video camera and a computer can get the same shots CNN can get. If you want people to hear your voice, you put up a video, and you're out there. Political reporters have all that 'You're off the bus' stuff to worry about; if they're denied access by the parties, they're going to starve. With someone like me, I don't have that much to lose. If I had to stop doing this tomorrow, it wouldn't make much difference to my life, except I'd have a lot more time to spend with my wife. So they don't have that power over me."
Ah, memories. Ten years later, the power of online video has become even stronger, while the advent of social media has nearly eliminated the need for blogs. Much more of our attention is being captured by Twitter and Facebook than by individual blogs.
Which I think ultimately is a good thing, because it gives pretty much everyone a voice, not just those who are technically savvy enough to host a blog.
The downside, of course, is that the immediacy and size limitations remove a lot of the detail and careful editing that you saw in blogs. (Other blogs, not my own...careful editing was often sacrificed on my blog!)