New media tools like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are making their way into an unexpected place: the White House. The Obama administration and its political operation at the Democratic National Committee have taken social media to a new level of sophistication by using it to communicate more directly with the public.
Recently, the White House streamed live video of the bipartisan congressional health care forum with the president. There were blogs and podcasts, too, even a White House iPhone app. The president often answers Americans' questions via YouTube, and the White House Web site now has a very active blog. According to White House officials, all of this is designed to make the president more accessible and the White House more transparent to ordinary citizens.
The NewsHour's Ray Suarez spoke with new media experts about what this phenomenon means for the Obama administration and the Democratic agenda. In a future report, he will examine how the Republicans are making use of the Internet.
"It's 2010, and 90 percent of Americans are wired in some way. And the White House is still using the bully pulpit as if we're in the television age and it's 1996." - Micah Sifry, editor, TechPresident.com
"Of course there are risks involved. But I think people need to feel, especially the people that (President Obama) had inspired, the people that joined this movement during the campaign, they need to feel as if he is talking directly at them and to them. And I think using these new media tools is the way to do that." - Jose Antonio Vargas, The Huffington Post
"I wake up every morning trying to understand what the new tools are and reconciling them to the larger strategic communications goals and engagement goals of this White House." - Macon Phillips, director of new media, The White House
1. What do you consider to be social media?
2. How have U.S. presidents traditionally communicated with the American people?
3. What does "transparency" mean in the context of the White House and government?
1. How do you think the president should communicate with Americans? What do you think are the most effective communication tools?
2. How do you learn about what's happening in the world, and how do your parents get their news? How do you think the way people consume media has changed from a decade ago?
3. What kinds of social media tools do you use? Which ones do you like best, and why?
4. Why do you think the White House and Democrats have placed such an emphasis on using new media? How does it help them? What risks might be involved?
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