Saturday, September 19, 2009

YouTube as Political Battleground (Updated)

Being a rabid YouTube poster, I often troll the cloud looking for video of current interest. See what I found for Sen. Michael Bennet. (Double click on the video to go to YouTube for more info.) Bennet supports a public option.(BennetForColorado) Impromptu Town Hall Meeting (carolyncriss) Update: Bennet Meet and Greet

I went to the "meet and greet" for US Senator Michael Bennet sponsored by State Senator Michael Johnston prepared to videotape the proceedings after having received an email invitation. Given that the event was held at Senator Johnston’s home (above), I felt it appropriate to ask for his permission first. Colorado has an Open Meetings Law (24-6-401+) which covers all the details. This law states that “Social Gatherings and chance meeting are exempt from open meetings regulations if discussion of public business is not the central purpose.” So does a "meet and greet" qualify as a social gathering? I’m not sure, but I think that who gets elected is "public business". From a campaign perspective, I would think that getting the word out would be the primary consideration. Senator Johnston readily agreed that it was okay to videotape in his house, but said that Senator Bennet should give his approval first. Senator Bennet was not yet present, so I asked a very young staff worker who said he would “have to ask his boss.” The meet had been originally scheduled to be from 5:00 - 7:00 pm, but yesterday that was changed to 5:00 - 6:00 pm. At about 5:20 I went to my van and got the camera, so I would be prepared when Senator Bennet showed up. As I approached with camera at the ready, I was met by staffer Adam Dunstone. I explained who I was to Dunstone, a friendly young man, who informed me that that he could speak for Senator Bennet, that I could not videotape because this was a private, not a public event. He was very polite, almost apologetic, said it was nothing personal and hoped I would understand. I asked if he had read the Open Meetings Law, and he said no, he hadn’t. I said that I could understand his reluctance, as I had seen the video (above) of the Impromptu Town Hall. He said that they had been “hijacked” on that one. He walked back with me as I returned the camera to my van and reiterated that he hoped I understood. He said that they had to be wary of “Republican trackers”, but that he wasn’t accusing me of being one. He added that campaign staff would do "internal" videotaping, and later, after I went inside, I did see a person with a small HD camera shooting shaky handheld footage. Senator Bennet, standing on the stair landing in the front room, spoke to the very polite and courteous group of about 50 nice looking, mostly young folk. He discussed various issues, including, of course, health care, and did what I considered a good job of presenting himself and his ideas. No one shouted anything out. (I could have pulled a “hijacking” and recorded the audio on my new pocket-sized Sony Webbie, but decided against it.) I rely on videotape to capture the moment because I am not good at taking notes in real time. I also want to present as unbiased a point of view as possible. I believe that the tape speaks for itself. Those familiar with my videos may also note that I rarely edit a speech internally, and usually try to present the whole speech without cuts (no matter how boring). Senator Bennet would have actually been doing himself a favor had he allowed me to shoot, as it would have been a great counter to the “Impromptu” piece posted above. As I left, I said to Adam, the staffer, “In my experience, people do more harm when they disallow press coverage than they would have done had they allowed it.” Strangely, he agreed. In truth, I do not understand public officials who want to disallow videotaping of their talks. My presentation would have been unbiased coverage for the purpose of allowing those who were not there to see what happened. I considered waiting on the sidewalk to ambush Senator Bennet when he left, maybe shouting out “Why are you afraid of videotape?”, but that’s really not my style. I’m just trying to capture the photons. (In posting this update, a link to this ad, entitled "Beat Senator Bennet" popped up on one of YouTube's entry pages. Check out the clickable links in the ad.)


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