Friday, March 30, 2007

50,000 YouTube users can't be wrong

White men can't dance.

Disagree? Just ask the all the audience at this week's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association dinner in Washington, D.C., or watch for yourself.

Karl Rove, aka "The Architect," broke it down with a little help from a couple of "Whose Line Is It Anyway" comics and the whole routine is available for your viewing pleasure on Web sites like YouTube.

Looking like he stole your grandpa's moves, Rove bounced around the stage referring to himself as "MC Rove" and making anyone with rhythm cringe.

It makes me wonder how accessible these black-tie roasts were to past generations. The broadcasters' dinner is a lighthearted evening with politicians, like President Bush, poking fun at themselves. The event is always covered by the media, but unless it showed up in the next night's broadcast, it doesn't seem like the general public would get to see much of it. There was probably no staying power.

Now video sharing sites make stunts like Rove's boogie-down readily available for posterity. For someone as behind-the-scenes as Rove is, it was a startling peek at the man behind The Man.

While the skit was improvised and Rove was coaxed up on stage, I wonder if he ever gave it a thought that his zombie dance would be traded around the Internet the next day? President Bush skewered himself pretty well but Rove certainly stole the show.

Would Rove's routine happened before the Internet and video sharing sites like YouTube? Is it conceivable that he was playing to the cameras? But I don't think anyone could have consciously danced that poorly.

Without YouTube, this story seems like it would have been a footnote and not a lead. Many papers led with the president's stabs at his approval ratings and his suggestion that Vice President Cheney should vacation in Afghanistan where he is more popular. But the news on TV and the Web was MC Rove.

It is important to think about how video sharing sites are revolutionizing media coverage and the public's consciousness. If TV cameras had not captured the gyrations, maybe someone would have recorded a few seconds on their camera phone. The Michael Richards race rant and Saddam Hussein execution were captured on camera phone. All it took was an Internet connection to have those videos fly around the world at warp speed. The stories made news but so did the way they were captured.

Could YouTube or another similar user video site ever launch a news division? It seems possible even in its infancy. News packages could be uploaded by a YouTube news division or by citizen journalists or both and the power of arranging the "newscast" would be in the mouse clicks of Web surfers.

While Karl Rove's dance may not have taught us any new moves (except ones to never do), it may have shed light on the changing nature of newsworthiness. The Web's "you gotta see this" factor - silly, outlandish and bizarre videos and e-mail forwards - could shift how the traditional media does its work.

As for the Architect, let's all hope his next dance number comes when the cameras are turned off.


At Friday, March 30, 2007, Blogger mm said...

Ah, the water cooler factor. This story popped (and locked) because it provided viewers conversational fodder. As a media studies major, I learned that one of the functions of the media industry is social cohesion. This story brought people together -- even if only to share in collective horror.
Youtube showed news stations that people were interested. It served as a test site, where the story could take a successful twirl (and awkward karate-like chop at the air) before producers stacked the morning show.
The Web site community is becoming a multi-million person focus group for network bigwigs. Could the trend continue? Will we see the networks imitate -- rather than report on -- Youtube?

At Saturday, March 31, 2007, Blogger GN said...

Interesting thought. I wonder now if YouTube is becoming a kind of alert for tv news producers to determine newsworthiness, based on the number of views. How many times in the past few weeks has something appeared on television news that first gained popularity (or mostly, notoriety) on YouTube? Quite a few.
Could YouTube also help tv become more hip and appealing to younger viewers? I'm assuming YouTube browsers are generally younger people? Back to the stories that originated on YouTube and then landed on tv...most of them had appeal to younger audiences. I'm sure there are many lessons to take from YouTube.


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