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White House blog marks huge shift in presidential communications
11th Feb 2009 | Posted by Tony Obregon
Coming off the heels of the most successful digital campaign in political history, President Barack Obama and his team are continuing their online communications with the launch of the official White House Blog. Macon Phillips, Director of New Media for the Obama administration, wrote the inaugural post on January 20 that emphasized communication, transparency and participation as the three guiding principles and priorities for all online media efforts from the team moving forward.
Anyone familiar with the benefits of blogging understands the real value that will come from this endeavor. We’ll have real-time information from the President’s office delivered to the masses via RSS. This is new territory; no other U.S. President has embraced digital communications on this level. While the chances of getting a Twitter response directly from President Obama are pretty low, the White House blog should satisfy your Presidential news fix.
It’s been less than three weeks and there are already approximately 50 posts on the site. The nature of the content varies but it focuses primarily on the signing of executive orders, details on Presidential events and sound bites extracted from President Obama’s official remarks (like those from the recent establishment of the Economic Recovery Advisory Board). The new White House Blog and its various components definitely live up to the first priority: communication.
But when it comes to the second priority, transparency, the blog misses the mark a bit. Pull any of the posts and you’ll see that there is no byline information. Would it be too much to ask that author names be attached to every post? We, the people, want to know whether Macon Phillips, another appointed administrator or President Obama himself are writing these posts.
On the participation front, comments on the White House blog are currently turned off so visitors don’t have the opportunity to provide feedback or have a discussion with other readers. It’s unclear if comments will ever be turned on. However, Macon stated that President Obama has promised to allow the public to review and comment on all non-emergency legislation for five days before the President signs it. For now, people can send comments to the White House via a button on the right side of the blog. You will be directed to the page of the Office of Public Liaison & Intergovernmental Affairs that includes a form for entering your message.
As recent history has shown, Democrats have fully mastered social media channels so I think it’s safe to say that the Obama administration will carry through on their online communications promise. Let’s just hope that the White House blog evolves into a true new media channel that encourages and promotes productive two-way conversation with the general public.