PBS request sidesteps media “rules” at polling places

In one of the more fascinating potential uses of “user-generated content,” PBS and YouTube have combined to create a way “to empower American voters to upload their Election Day voting experiences to YouTube (http://youtube.com/videoyourvote).” This is fascinating to me on many levels.

One, the videos will be uploaded to and hosted by YouTube, not PBS. Most of the companies I work with would prefer to host such videos themselves, but PBS doesn’t have their profit motive, so all they want is the content for election night.

Two, this will put cameras deep into the polling place process, access to which has always been limited for traditional media companies. Voters with cameras have a different sort of access, although I’m sure we’ll hear stories of election workers attempting to bar personal cameras. “Sorry, you can’t take that phone in there with you.”

Three, the partnership is one of the smartest things I’ve ever seen come out of PBS, hitching its serious reputation with the youth of today and even distributing 1,000 Flip cameras to non-partisan organizations to help seed the YouTube channel.

Every media organization in the U.S. needs to pay attention to this, not only for journalistic reasons but also for the beauty of the partnership. Everybody wins, including the public. From the press release:

The initiative educates voters on the entire process and a wide array of issues associated with voting in America, while enabling the world to watch pivotal moments in this historic election as they unfold. In the first presidential election since YouTube’s inception, this program aims to gather massive amounts of polling place video, with the Channel serving as an online library for Election Day footage.

…“This program takes the best of PBS and The NewsHour, our editorial reputation and broadcast reach, and combines it with YouTube’s tremendous online video community to share polling place footage from Maine to California and everywhere in between for all to see,” said Judy Woodruff, senior correspondent and political editor of The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer. “This is the YouTube election, and we’re thrilled to be a part of it.”

The YouTube election. Indeed.

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