Should the Westborough MA town hall start using video streaming? This possibility has been around for a decade.
A new kind of town hall got discovered back in July of 2007. Americans across the country were able to participate in a sort of debate between the 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls.
What was unique about this event isn’t that candidates were taking their message on the road, but how candidates got video streaming questions from YouTube. Many multiple thousands of online users tuned in for this town hall meeting that was available to everyone around the world. Viewers even started uploading YouTube clips to post their very own questions to candidates.
The forum lead to some intriguing questions, but the implications were astounding. For once, citizens across the nation could participate in something just with online access, and a vibrant audience responded.
The CNN/YouTube debate format was at time eccentric, and at time anticlimactic, but it was nonetheless a milestone for creating new ways to connect with the voting public.
Local municipalities are starting to wake up to the power of video streaming, be it press conferences, legislative meetings, or the classic town hall meeting. While hardcore activists and political extremists enjoy showing up in person for meetings, the rank and file citizenry is more plugged into technology than anything else. This has created new levels of awareness and engagement on national or even state issues, but local news and politics haven’t kept up. In fact, computer time has eaten up television and radio time, along with other forms of mass media, so attention to the local news is lower than ever.
So, should the Westborough MA town hall start using video streaming? Many functions of the town hall still need to be handled in person, but an online town hall format would allow participation from the elderly and infirm who can’t easily physically make it to meetings, as well as encourage participation on cold winter nights with nasty weather.
Even if citizens can’t submit questions to the Westborough town hall, it would be possible for them to dig through archives and see past meetings or just the one from last night. That way, they could stay informed of what’s being talked about from direct sources in case they don’t read local papers or keep up with a local news station, especially as local news stations have increasingly turned viewers off with chasing ambulances and police to the worst news of the day before covering sports and weather.