The UpTake focus their lenses on the Republican National Convention

If you happened to catch the CNN-YouTube Democratic debate last week—and with Minnesota's caucuses more than six months away, who didn't?—you may have noticed one of the video questions from a somewhat excitable Minneapolis man named Marcus Benson, who asked if the candidates would raise his taxes.

That national coup was the handiwork of the Uptake, a new nonprofit devoted to citizen journalism. As one of their first public efforts, the Uptake solicited man-on-the-street questions to the candidates, then sent the videos to the YouTube debates. (You can see the selected question and others at

But that's only a prelude to their real ambition—to train as many as 100 amateur video reporters to cover the Republican National Convention next year in St. Paul, plus the Democratic convention in Denver and the Iowa caucuses.

The Minnesotans behind the Uptake are well-known players in new media and DFL activism: Executive Director Jason Barnett, a St. Paul sculptor and political activist, and partners Chris Dykstra, who blogs on the New Patriot Web site; Chuck Olsen, creator of the popular Minnesota Stories video blog; Mike McIntee, producer of the Inside Minnesota Politics podcasts; and Bridget Cusick, the team's marketing expert and former communications director for Keith Ellison's congressional campaign.

Their video journalism venture was spurred by the upcoming Republican soiree, and by a general frustration with the way traditional media cover such events.

"We thought it was time to put some of the new-media energy into video and tell real journalistic stories," Barnett says.

The plan is to train video-equipped ordinary Joes to cover three aspects of the convention: the Republicans and their sponsors, the stories behind the protestors, and how traditional media cover the event.

Despite many of the group members' past ties to the DFL, Barnett says the Uptake will be "absolutely nonpartisan."

So what happens if a citizen journalist captures video of—oh, let's say—a DFL leader knocking over a liquor store? Will Uptake put that on its Web site?

"I can't see why we wouldn't," Barnett says.

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