Democratic Convention: The Youth Vote
MTV News Correspondent
Tuesday, July 27, 2004; 2:30 PM
MTV News correspondent John Norris has reported for the network since 1988, covering topics as varied as 9/11, presidential politics and pop-star interviews. This week Norris will be covering the Democratic National Convention as part of MTV's "Choose or Lose" coverage.
Norris was be online to discuss the convention, the election and the issues that speak to the MTV-demographic.
The transcript follows.
Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.
We hear of the catch 22 for youth:
Why vote when the candidates don't talk about issues we are interested in? So what comes first, issues that will attract youth to the voting booth or a significant youth turnout that sends candidates in searchof issues to swing youth voters to thier side?
We know seniors care about social security/medicare/drugs. What are the issues that would most likely generate high youth voter turnout in November? The war? Jobs?
John Norris: You've got two of the biggest issues right there. Obviously the war and the prospect of future wars is an issue of huge concern to not only 18-30 year old voters but those younger than that that will come of voting age in the next few years. These are the people who will be asked to put their lives on the line if and when another "pre-emptive war" is deemed necessary. Clearly jobs and an uncertain job market are of great concern for our audience and the high cost of a college education as well.
No offense, but the "reporting" on MTV has to be some of the worst television "journalism" ever seen on television. It is empty, completely style over substance, completely lacking in history and perspective and in-depth analysis, and it seems to cater to people with low IQs without any sense of news judgement. Doesn't anyone at MTV have real journalism experience? Please--watch the real journalists, and hire some real journalism editors, writers and producers.
John Norris: Wow. Your criticisms are pretty broad. All I can say in the little time I have here is that yes, the employees of MTV News certainly do have journalism training and backgrounds and I am sorry if you don't think that is apparent in the work we do.
Do politicians know that most people don't care about these conventions, and that idiotic people wearing stupid hats doesn't do anything at all to contribute to any sense of dignity at these over-blown, overly-expensive wastes of time? Most people just go for the parties, free drinks and the free food -- and that's according to about three dozen people in politics, business and journalism who I've known and talked to about attending these things. Really -- about 40 people, including some high-ranking politicians -- said this: they went for the parties, the free drinks and the free food. And that's a fact.
John Norris: I certainly can't argue that a lot of people seem to turn out for the parties. This is the 7th convention I have covered and I rarely meet a delegate who doesn't like a good party. On the other hand I think a lot of people are serious about the "work" that gets done here and this year in particular I think they seem motivated to work harder than ever to elect their man.
Chevy Chase, Md.:
MTV's focus on news has waned in the years I've been watching: From the "Week In Rock" (which I adored) to "MTV News 1515" (which you're quite familiar with, I remember), to now, when news briefs flash only ten to the hour, every hour. Do you and the MTV crew plan to revamp your news focus now that the 100 days are on the verge of starting? I would watch the "Choose Or Lose" and "Rock the Vote" debates religiously, and now that I'm 19 and finally able to vote I'm looking forward to the same coverage. It's the only campaigning that seems to be specifically aimed at my age group... are you still on our side?
John Norris: I am absolutely still on your side. While I too miss the presence of a weekly news show on MTV and wish that news in general sometimes had a higher profile on the channel we certainly do plan to ramp up our "Choose or Lose" coverage in the next few months. Among the things you can look forward to are a special on sexual politics with some pretty remarkable stories of young people in tough situations hosted by Christina Aguilera, an online "prelection" which will allow viewers not only to choose Bush or Kerry but will facilitate actual voter registration in their respective states.
I heard that the editor of Wonkette.com, Ana Marie Cox, is working for MTV at the convention. How is she doing? When can I see her on TV?
John Norris: You can see her first piece tomorrow on TRL between 5 and 6 pm. ET. Also keep checking mtv.com for an online piece from her.
The Democratic Party gets pretty big endorsements from musicians like Bruce Springsteen, who on a regular basis blasts President Bush at his concerts. What entertainers/musicians does the Republican party and more specifically President Bush have on his side?
John Norris: I'll be honest - in the pop, rock and hiphop circles there are not a ton of conspicuous Bush-Cheney supporters. Artists who have supported Bush in the past include 3 Doors Down, Sully from Godsmack, and of course the NRA's own Ted Nugent.
San Diego, California:
Do you think the youth are more engaged in this election than the last or just the same or maybe less so?
John Norris: My gut response is of course "yes." They are more engaged and interested than any time in the 12 years I have been covering "Choose or Lose" at least, and how could they not be. If what is going on in the world is not enough to motivate at least the 20 million 18-30 year olds that MTV is seeking to get to the polls in November I don't know what ever will.
John, I've been watching your reports for the past few years, and you do a great job. But why are the majority of the reports skewed (purposefully or not) against Republicans? Don't you think this undermines the idea of news?
John Norris: It is interesting that you should say that. Let me say first of all that believe it or not I hear similar criticisms from time to time from Democrats. All I can tell you is that we have no agenda except of course encouraging young Americans to get informed, involved and vote. We strive for balanced coverage and have an open, repeated invitation to the president and members of the administration to talk to us, and our audience, between now and the election.
What do you think of Internet voting?
John Norris: If there is any way they could perfect the process and eliminate the possibility of voter fraud - no small task - I would be all for it.
I also really think the time has come for this country to consider a practice that is widespread in other nations - moving Election Day to Sunday. Hello?
Do you have any information on the Los Angeles Times story about REM, Springsteen, Dylan, James Taylor, The Dixie Chicks, The Beastie Boys and many others doing October touring in swing states against Cheney and Bush (and BTW, add to the list of Bush rockers Johnny Ramone of the band of the same name)
John Norris: I have heard of some of these artists individually planning to do pro-Kerry benefits but nothing coordinated and nothing definite yet. Given the level of "passion" that many of these artists bring to this particular election year I would not be at all surprised to see some sort of Kerrypalooza happening.
This is a little off-topic, but how have you managed to stay at MTV while a seemingly endless stream of more youthful "correspondents" have been chewed up and spit out at MTV News?
John Norris: You mean besides that rapidly aging painting in my attic? Seriously I don't know, you would have to ask my boss. I don't want to think too much about this or I will jinx it.
I'm writing as a young activist in the left-wing of the Labour Party here in Scotland in the U.K. I was wondering about the youth activism in the Democratic Party and whether it tends to be more to the left of the party or not, here most of the Young Labour and Labour Students tend towards the Blairite leadership of the Labour Party , whereas in the past they had a reputation for being on the left and the far-left of the Party. Do young Democrats consider themselves liberals, social democrats or even socialists?
John Norris: I think in this country if the Howard Dean phenomenon is any indication what seems to resonate with young voters has less to do with specific traditionally "left-wing" positions and more to do with shaking up the system, going about politics in a new more inclusive way, a way that reaches out to people and rejects special interests.
Washington, D.C. Metro area:
In my early 20s: How effective do you think are Sen. Kerry's efforts to #1 reach out to minority voters, and #2 to reach out to the "MTV generation" that's voting? At the DNC, what is he doing to address these specific groups and their concerns?
John Norris: Look, John Kerry is hoping to follow in the Democratic footsteps of the man who has at times been called America's first black president and for that matter its most youthful president since Kennedy, Bill Clinton. Clinton's ability to engage African Americans and young people is rare. That doesn't mean Kerry isn't reaching out to both constituencies but of course time will tell how much he is succeeding.
John Norris: Thanks for all your questions guys. Choose or Lose is one of MTV News initiatives that I am the most proud of. I hope you'll stay with us on air and online throughout the fall. But even if you don't, do me one favor, register and vote.
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