The Cyber-Debate That Wasn't

Tracking politics as it's practiced on the Web.
Oct. 11 2000 9:00 PM

The Cyber-Debate That Wasn't

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Slate, the Industry Standard, and washingtonpost.com join forces to examine the effect of the Internet on Campaign 2000. 

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Perhaps Slate's experiments with online dialogue can offer some useful lessons. According to Slate editors, Web exchanges work best when they're unmoderated and, not surprisingly, when participants write their own stuff. (Enforcing the latter would pose whole new problems for a presidential debate.) Also, Slate dialogues benefit from comments drawn in from "The Fray," Slate's bulletin board, which often fosters shadow conversations among interested readers. "If you could have a parallel public discussion alongside the debate, candidates might feel pressure to respond, to show what populists they are," says Kinsley.

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In the future, two trends might lend the cyber-debate some relevancy. First, greater access to broadband will make video clips worthwhile, as more people can easily download them. Bailey envisions a time when video press releases will largely replace print ones. Second, campaigns may eventually realize they've got a powerful tool in their hands. "Right now," says Bailey, "it's hard to expect them to devote significant time and energy to this. It would be great, but it's not realistic." Next time around, things could be different.

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