Posts Tagged ‘citizens’

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The 21st century fireside chat: was it effective?

March 26, 2009

people-for-open-government-cartoon

Thursday around lunchtime (which in retrospect sounds like kind of awful timing), President Obama hosted the nation’s first-ever online town hall. For days, the White House was literally open for questions. 92,925 people submitted 104,132 questions and cast 3,606,841 votes on whitehouse.gov. And they saw their most popular questions get answered: on education, universal healthcare, legalizing marijuana, outsourced jobs, and more.

The point, as Obama said at the beginning, was “to open up the White House to the American people.”

The fun thing about any political event in 2009, or 2008 for that matter, is watching all the chatter on Twitter as it happens. You have reporters being smartasses, people being really critical, and smartass reporters telling people to calm down, and other reporters responding to each other. It’s really entertaining.

But it’s interesting to me, because I wonder, how effective are all the new media things that Obama’s administration is trying? Do people like it? Do they think it sucks? or does no one really care cause we’re all cynical and think politicians suck anyways? I like watching the Twitter stream because you can try to get a gauge of what people are thinking about an event as it happens.

I thought I might try to write a “review” of the online town hall today but I realize now that that would be kind of pointless. I would just be one more of the millions of online wannabe political pundits who thinks they know everything about what Obama did right and wrong today. Well, I don’t. But what I want to know is whether people liked it, and whether it really addressed the people’s concerns and needs.

Sure, people are excited. When you do a Twitter search on “Obama” today half the results that come up are along the lines of “Watching Obama’s online town hall, he’s so cool!” I get that. Everyone’s excited about innovation. But I don’t think we should get excited about innovation just for innovation’s sake. He shouldn’t be doing it because it’s “cool.” That would be like CNN trying hologram interviews… Oh wait, they did that. And it made them the laughingstock of news networks.

My point is, what is the White House’s goal of trying all these things? It isn’t just to create a tech-savvy, “cool” personal brand for President Obama and his White House. It should have clear-cut aims. And then I want to know: did the online town hall achieve its aims? Do the people feel like they had a voice? Do they feel like their questions were answered satisfactorily? Do they feel more confident in where the economy and the country are going? Do they feel like the President is listening to them, or do we all still think he’s an out-of-touch politician?

Did you watch it? Did you like it? Do you think it was effective? Did you get bored out of your mind?

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