Thursday morning will mark yet another chapter in President Barack Obama’s use of all aspects of the new media to get his message out and answer questions. Literally.
He’ll be going online Thursday morning to take questions from people about the economy. Here’s the White House video:
The White House is Open for Questions from White House on Vimeo
The White House is headlining this “The White House Is Open For Questions” and here is how they frame it:
Today, the President invited everyone to use a new feature on WhiteHouse.gov called “Open for Questions” to ask a question about the economy and rate other questions up or down. Then, on Thursday morning, the President will conduct a special online town hall on the economy and answer some of the most popular questions and the event will be streamed on WhiteHouse.gov
It tells readers to go HERE to set up an account and gives some basic guidelines:
This experiment is about encouraging transparency and accountability, so ask the President exactly what it is you want to know – but let others do the same. It is a community-moderated system, but remember that even though you may not like the viewpoint behind someone’s question, everyone has a right to their opinion. Also remember that Americans of all ages will be participating in this event, so be thoughtful about the words you choose. Participants are asked to follow some basic guidelines for submitting their own questions and flagging other questions as inappropriate.
So be part of history in the making and ask away. The team here at the White House can’t wait to see America’s response!
This could be an effective communications tool, provided that the White House ensures that there are some extremely tough and even perhaps uncomfortable questions and not a lot of softball ones that reek of P.R.
What is interesting here is that Obama is now putting himself — in terms of communication — in the same group as Democrats FDR and JFK. FDR used the new medium of radio to reach out to Americans and sell his “New Deal” agenda as a way to make his voice heard over the din of opposition to his recovery agenda. JFK learned that press conferences could help build his popularity and image and that sparring with the press could be even fun. Obama is now making full use of the new media — You Tube, online chats such as this — and unlike some other Presidents clearly doesn’t consider a press conference akin to having two root canals.
So take your bets now on when Obama will start to Twitter.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.