In his column about the CNN/YouTube debates for the Guardian, Jeff Jarvis wrote: "TV doesn't know how to have a conversation. TV knows how to perform."
I completely agree, and that's why the Huffington Post -- in partnership with Yahoo! and Slate -- is really happy to announce that we now have a date for the first-ever online-only presidential candidate mashup. The event is set for September 12. It will be moderated by Charlie Rose, and all eight Democratic candidates have agreed to take part (we are in discussions with the Republican campaigns for a GOP candidate mashup to follow later in the year).
What's a candidate mashup? It's a new kind of campaign forum that will put you in charge of shaping exactly what kind of viewing experience you want to have -- from the questions that are asked to the way you can pick and choose the issues you want to hear about and the candidates you want to hear from.
Here's how it will work: Charlie Rose, armed with questions you have sent in, will have a conversation with each of the candidates (more on these questions in a minute). The intimacy that Charlie always brings to his conversations is the perfect compliment to the intimacy, directness, and authenticity that were the hallmark of so many of the public's YouTube questions.
After the candidates have finished talking, the video will be coded and put at your disposal -- empowering you to create the candidate mashups of your choosing.
Want to see what all the candidates said about Iraq? It's just a click away. Or maybe you just want to compare the answers of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Or perhaps health care is your primary concern and you want to see how John Edwards' take on the issue compares to Joe Biden's or Chris Dodd's. The point is, you can watch what you want, when you want, and how you want. Focus on one candidate or one issue or mix and match. Then share your takes on what you see with your friends or other mashup users.
It's Campaign 2008 meets the brave new world of interactivity.
So today we start by asking for your questions. You can send them any way you want -- written in an email, shot on video, delivered via podcast. There will also be a wide variety of ways to submit your questions. Our partners Yahoo! and Slate will be gathering questions, and there will also be platforms for submitting questions on MySpace and Facebook.
To submit a question, simply send it to us as a comment to this post, including the phrase "Question for a Candidate" at the top. You can also include links to videos or other media you've posted elsewhere.
The 2008 campaign will be the first truly 21st Century presidential race. We have entered the era where candidates routinely announce their candidacy, try out and place campaign ads, and raise tens of millions of dollars online. And they are connecting to voters via increasingly interactive websites.
This bodes well for the democratic process since it will allow campaigns to engage a whole new generation of young voters who spend so much of their time -- and get so much of their information -- online. It's where they get their news; it's where they share their views (and their pictures, videos, favorite songs, diaries, etc). It's how they stay connected to their friends -- and how they can become connected to the candidates.
We hope our candidate mashups will be another part of the online revolution currently storming the barricades of the '08 race.
So please start sending us your questions.
Follow Arianna Huffington on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ariannahuff