Law student’s Coons-O’Donnell debate video goes viral
Public Relations - Published: October 25, 2010
ShariffMohammedYoutube300pxAs a Delaware campus law student, Mohammed Irfan Shariff was one of the first people in line to attend the political debate between U.S. Senate candidates Chris Coons and Christine O’Donnell early on the morning of Oct. 19.

He brought two cameras, his laptop and a wild curiosity about O’Donnell, the woman who has been the focus of national attention after knocking Delaware political legend Mike Castle out of the Republican primary. Shariff hoped for a chance to speak with O’Donnell and thought he might get some useful video for his legal blog, Fameappeal.com.

But when Shariff heard the candidates begin sparring over the U.S. Constitution, he knew he had valuable video and he had to act fast. So, he immediately uploaded a cut from the debate onto his YouTube account from his seat in the Ruby R. Vale Moot Courtroom. He did it in a room where representatives of many major news outlets were also filming.

“The way social media works, you have to be the first one to act,” he said.

As the day progressed, and word spread of a controversial exchange between the candidates, Shariff’s video – posted through his “Fameappeal” YouTube account – was called up on screens around the world. A week after the debate the clip has nearly one million views and more than 15,000 comments. Outlets like The Huffington Post and NPR linked to it while it was played on television by networks such as CNN . The clip was at the top of YouTube's “most viewed” rankings over the span of two days.

“I love that Fame Appeal is a legal platform that allows me to be part of cutting-edge social media,” Shariff said.

A blue and gold Widener Law banner is prominently displayed behind the candidates in the shot – a detail that didn’t happen by accident.

“I wanted to make sure Widener and Fame Appeal got recognition from the video,” Shariff said.

It worked. His blog, where he also posted the video, became so busy with traffic, he had trouble logging in to update it. He received more than 2,000 emails in one day. An image posted on the blog shows a screen shot from Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN, which shows the candidates, the banner and the credit line “from fameappeal.com.”

Shariff is a third-year student who once worked as a fashion designer. A fan of intellectual property law, he hopes to practice law in the fashion, entertainment and tech industries. He works at a law firm, attends school full time and is dedicated to trailblazing a legal niche with his website, providing an online presence that merges entertainment, fashion and business.

The debate was presented through a partnership between Widener Law School and 1150 AM WDEL, a news and talk radio station based in Wilmington.