Debate of the Future!

(Getty Images/Stan Honda)
Hyperbole Alert! Today's New York Times discusses an upcoming Democratic debate being co-sponsored by CNN and YouTube. The debate's format will feature the 8 (and counting) candidates on a stage at The Citadel, with questions being posed by YouTube users who may or may not incorporate clips and images and music to make their point.

And, my how the techies are falling over themselves to say that this is The Next Big Thing:

Michael Bassik, a Democratic consultant with MSHC Partners, who specializes in online political advertising and is not affiliated with any campaign, noted that YouTube offers an "exponentially greater opportunity to reach a young, active, passionate audience," one that is far bigger than the combined audiences of the nightly newscasts and the five debates that have been shown on television so far this season. For those five debates, the majority of viewers were older than 55.

"The impact of the YouTube debate can't be over-estimated," Mr. Bassik said.

Barack Obama's spokesman tells the Times that combining the power of CNN and YouTube is going to be "like when the 'talkies' married the moving image with sound in the 1920s."

Talkies? Can't be over-estimated? Settle down, people.

Listen, I've said repeatedly here that YouTube is the bull in the political china shop. But let's not oversell this upcoming debate, either. The fact remains that the videos from YouTube will still be vetted by CNN, and while a few more youth-oriented questions will break into the normal tried-and-true routine … it's not as if they're going to yank questions at random and some wildcard will pass through unfiltered.

This debate will be little different from a town hall debate held on a college campus – young voters, youth-oriented questions. If anything, the possibility that a college student at a campus event would pull a bait-and-switch I-said-I'd-ask-one-thing-but-now-I'm-asking-a-different-question stunt has a higher probability than CNN letting a controversial YouTube mashup on air.

The Times piece closes by saying "[p]erhaps some will show up at the YouTube debate in something other than a dark suit. Some may even bring their own videos." Perhaps, but keep your expectations low. This un-over-estimatable debate will likely be a familiar cocktail of the old standard, but with a twist. It'll be a multimedia Rob Roy.