NEW YORK – Lecterns are so 2004. In the latest chapter of new Web-empowered debates and interaction with presidential candidates, social networking site MySpace and MTV will bring together 2008 hopefuls and young voters for real-time online conversations.
The announced front-running candidates of both parties will participate, each holding individual dialogues with voters. Voters can instant-message, e-mail or text their questions in real-time during the events, which will be webcast live on MTV.com and MySpaceTV.com.
To be held September through December, the 11 dialogues will each last about one hour and include real-time polling that rates the online audience's response to the candidates' answers. During their chats, candidates will typically be located on college campuses.
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"This is not a debate," said MTV spokesman Ian Rowe. "Each one of these dialogues is an opportunity for young people both on a college campus — as well as millions watching via a live stream on MySpace and MTV.com — to have a one-on-one, direct, unfiltered conversation with each candidate."
The discussions will be unfiltered to a degree. There will still be a moderator choosing the questions, aided by a group of political experts and an MTV News correspondent. About 100 to 200 students will be able to physically attend the discussions, the locations of which will be announced the day they're held.
PHOTO ESSAYS: 2008 Democratic Presidential Candidates and 2008 Republican Presidential Candidates
Former Sen. John Edwards will hold the first dialogue on Sept. 27 in New Hampshire.
Other Democrats taking part are: Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Barack Obama, and Gov. Bill Richardson.
Participating Republicans are: Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Rep. Ron Paul, Rep. Duncan Hunter, Sen. John McCain, Sen. Sam Brownback, and former Gov. Mitt Romney.
Townhall-style debates have been the traditional model of face-to-face candidate-voter interaction, but the growth of social networking Web sites has caused an updating of the format. In July, CNN and video-sharing Web site YouTube partnered to hold a Democratic debate where people could contribute their questions by uploading a video from anywhere.
The debate attracted 2.6 million television viewers on CNN, a slight drop from MSNBC's conventional debate in June. A Republican debate with CNN and YouTube is scheduled for Nov. 28.
But the MySpace-MTV dialogues are meant to provide a different experience.
"We very much want to take the Iowa or New Hampshire living room global," said Jeff Berman, general manager of MySpaceTV, referring to where the first primaries for the presidential election are held.
"It's much more akin to the conversation that happens around the dining-room table in Nashua (N.H.) or at the state fair in Iowa rather than on a stage with a dozen candidates all trying to squeeze in their consultant-crafted sound bites," Berman added.
The dialogues are a new direction for MTV's "Choose or Loose" campaign, which was launched in 1992 as a way to encourage young people to vote. MTV is owned by Viacom Inc.
In March, MySpace, owned by News Corp., launched the Impact Channel, a section dedicated to the 2008 presidential election where candidates' profiles appear: http://impact.myspace.com. MySpace will hold a presidential primary by taking user votes Jan. 1 and 2.
MySpace is owned by News Corp., the parent company of FOXNews.com.
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