Super Tuesday: Getting Out the Youth Vote with Citizen Journalism

Posted by CorinneRamey on Feb 05, 2008

This February 5th isn't just any Tuesday in the United States. It's Super Tuesday, so named because 23 of the 50 states are holding presidential primaries, making it the contest that could potentially determine the all-important presidential Democratic and Republican nominees.

Television station MTV (Music Video Television) has an innovative new effort to get out the youth vote and merge citizen journalism with mainstream media. The effort, dubbed "Street Team '08," is made possible through mobile phones.

On Super Tuesday, 51 citizen journalist reporters will be conducting interviews from polling places, candidate rallies, and other locations. The interviews will be filmed entirely on Nokia N95 mobile phones, which stream live video directly to the Internet by using an application called Flixwagon. The videos are then edited by MTV staff and played on the channel throughout the day, in addition to being available on the MTV website.

In an MTV News press release, MTV's President Christina Norman said that she hopes to empower young voters through the project. “Young people are taking hold of the political process like never before, and are clamoring to share and react to the stories as they unfold on the campaign trail in real-time,” she said. “The Street Team’s Super Tuesday coverage will be hyper-focused on the issues and stories that matter most to our audience, empowering them to experience the day’s historic events in a whole new way.”

MobileActive spoke with Shelby Highsmith, one of the citizen journalists contributing to the MTV project. Shelby will be reporting from Georgia, one of the states voting in the Super Tuesday primary. "We are focusing on the youth vote," said Shelby, "So we're trying to get out this vote and get young people engaged." He said that most of the coverage is aimed at MTV's target audience, which tends to be between the ages of 16 and 24.

Shelby said that most of the reporters aren't professional journalists, but were contracted specifically for the Choose or Loose campaign. "I'm actually an aerospace engineer, in grad school at Georgia Tech," he said. "The political thing is on the side." The citizen journalists were selected for the campaign through an application process, in which they sent in essays and links to previous video content.

The videos and blogs of the citizen journalists will be available both on the web at and The campaign also has a WAP site -- -- and the stories are also available via SMS, by texting STREET to short code 44686. Normal text messaging rates apply.

Shelby said that for him one of the perks of the project is the association with the Associated Press (AP). Some of the videos submitted will be available on the AP video network, which gives the mobile reporters the chance to be picked up by the mainstream media. "As we submit videos to MTV sites, there's some editorial process where stories go to the AP video network," he said. "The mainstream media may not quite know what to do with this, but they're willing to take a chance on us [citizen journalists]."

The project is funded through a $700,000 Knight News Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and sponsored by Nokia.

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