YouTube Moderator on Obama Interview: Any Group Has a "Chance to Be Heard"

Moments after the YouTube interview with President Obama wrapped, CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid turned the tables on moderator Steve Grove, YouTube's head of news and politics.

In the White House press briefing room, Grove told CBS News, "It wasn't really me interviewing the president. It was the 140,000 people who submitted questions online and the millions of folks who voted."

The White House did not have a say on what questions Grove would ask the president, though YouTube and the White House did earlier discuss what topics the website would solicit questions for. These topics were based on what the president would mention and highlight in his State of the Union address.

YouTube and the White House collectively decided on a post-State of the Union interview to capitalize on people's interest in politics.

Ten times more questions were submitted this year than in 2009, though the legalization of marijuana and the president's drug policy still dominated YouTube viewers' interest.

"Any group that has an issue they care about can mobilize around it and in a forum like this, have a chance to be heard," Grove said.

Though drug policy was not one of the topics YouTube asked people to submit questions on, 198 of the 200 top videos were reportedly on marijuana. "Legalization has become a more relevant discussion policymakers are having," Grove said.

He posed one question on the topic to the president, which Grove said he thought Mr. Obama took "pretty seriously."

"If we don't, we're not really being faithful to the system of this interview, which is submit your question, vote on it and we'll bring it to the president," he said.

A topic Grove characterized as "deadly serious" is the unrest in Egypt and the stifling of social media in certain regions. "I think the president was very clear [today] that he thinks that that's not the way government should treat the Internet."

"There's a tremendous power shift," Grove said. "Regular citizens with cell phone cameras in the streets of their countries are documenting civic unrest, many times in places where traditional media cannot get and broadcasting it to the world with a free YouTube account."

It's a trend the White House is embracing. Also this week, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius also have interviews scheduled with non-traditional digital media outlets.

As for the president, Grove said, "I sense he really liked the chance to speak directly to the American people. I'm there just clicking the mouse to make sure the questions get in front of him."

Christine Delargy is an associate producer for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. You can also follow her on Twitter here: http://www.twitter.com/cbswashunplug.

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