Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Interview with Washington Post's Chris Cillizza

CitizenTube had the opportunity to interview Chris Cillizza, author of the widely-read political blog "The Fix," on Last month, Chris decided to bring "The Fix" to YouTube and set up his very own channel. In his twice-weekly video installments of "FixCam," Chris helps to make rhyme and reason of our country's often convoluted political landscape...and he does it in roughly 3 minute installments. We're big Fix fans and were thus thrilled when Chris agreed to a CitizenTube interview.

Without further ado:

1) It seems like writing your blog, The Fix, on keeps you pretty busy -- especially during an election cycle like this one. Why did you decide to start FixCamming, too?

My goal with The Fix was always to take advantages of what a web medium affords a journalist. That means making the blog as three dimension as possible through links and embedded video. As I started to do more and more video in the blog, I started to think more seriously about doing some video of my own. I've always been sort of a ham (ask my wife) and the idea of using a visual vehicle to provide analysis and context about the political goings-on appealed to me. (It also allowed me to dress up in various costumes.)

2) How do you think online video has affected politics? Has it made campaigns more transparent or more of a circus?

I think the You Tube-ization of campaign politics has both good and bad to it -- like almost any other major innovation in the way in which people consume news. First, the positive: It's allowed anyone who can operate a handheld camera. That means a whole cadre of eyes and ears keeping an eye on politicians -- an increased level of vigilance that can only help the process in the long term. The downside: with everyone taping everything, politicians are constantly on guard -- trying to avoid a "YouTube" moment. That means less candor generally and less of a chance for a reporter to really get to know what a politician is thinking at any given moment.

3) What's the most effective political video you've ever seen?

Oooh, good question. There's a bunch I have really liked and even more I found effective. In no particular order: "Vote Different", John McCain singing "Bomb Iran", the Mike Gravel "Rock" video, Mitt Romney gets into it with a waitress (filmed by the Post's own Mike Shear, author of The Trail), and how could any list be complete without Obama Girl's "I got a crush on Obama".

4) What's the most significant thing about this presidential election that makes it different from ones past?

The pace. Even four years ago there wasn't the instantaneous coverage that ANY news event -- no matter how small -- causes these days. Case in point: I covered the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting last weekend (heck of a way to spend a Saturday). We decided that given the level of interest in the meeting -- it was designed to finally solve the problem of what to do with the sanctioned Florida and Michigan delegates -- I would live blog the event. I wound up writing more than ten total posts (and gosh knows how many words) during the day and was one of hundreds and hundreds of people blogging about the events in real time. And this was for a meeting of an OBSCURE group of party insiders! Keeping up with the pace is impossible for one person, a lesson I have learned over the two plus years I have been writing The Fix. What you do is find your own rhythm -- faster than some, slower than others -- and try to stick to it.

5) How do you envision the future of political journalism on the web in 5 years? 20 years?

I wish I knew the answer to this question. I don't. My guess is that the definition of the word "journalist" will continue to expand into blogs, video, and other mediums. People are consuming their news in new and different ways and, as an industry, we are trying to figure out how to handle that. The thing that gives me hope is that a blog like The Fix, which is focused exclusively on campaign politics, can succeed. I think its success is a sign that people still want the latest and greatest in the world of politics and even want someone to guide them through the maze that is modern political campaigns. That seems to me a good sign for our industry. Is the delivery vehicle by which people get their news changing? Yes. But is there still a desire for that news? Undoubtedly.

6) What do you think are the responsibilities of a mainstream reporter in the YouTube age?

The responsibilities of a reporter don't change no matter what age we are in. The goal should always be to provide a full, fair and accurate account of the state of play without any personal biases leaking in. That's true whether you are writing for the Washington Post, writing a blog, hosting your own web-video show or appearing on television. Good journalism is good journalism.

7) Where do you go for your political news? (Do you ever take a look at what's happening on YouTube?)

I go to a lot of places but here's what is on my navigation bar: Politico (specifically blogs by Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin), The Page, Marc Ambinder's blog at The Atlantic, Hotline, YouTube's news and politics homepage, Drudge Report, Huffington Post. I also have a few media websites (Fishbowl DC, Michael Calderone's blog, Romenesko), the Post's music blog (Post Rock) and a few sports sites -- mostly so that I can monitor my faltering fantasy baseball teams.

8) I know it's hard to pick a favorite child, but which of your FixCam videos (produced thus far) do you love most?

MAN. That is tough. I have been getting more and more familiar with iMovie the more I work with it so I think some of the newer ones are better. I really liked the one I did on campaign jingles because I got to dress up in costumes. I also dug the latest FixCam Week in Preview because of the video montage set to the Doors' "The End". For raw hilarity/idiocy, it's hard to pick against the debut of The Fix t-shirt.

9) Can you really buy "The Fix" T-shirts online?

Stay tuned. Deals are being struck. Wheels are turning. Stuff is happening. The only way to really know is to CONSTANTLY click on The Fix. Maybe 100 times a day :)

Check out the latest FixCam:


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