President Obama is 'Open for Questions' Online
White House Launches Online Town Hall for Americans to Grill Prez
By KAREN TRAVERS
March 25, 2009
Didn't like the questions that were asked of President Obama at his press conference Tuesday night? Want to pose a follow-up on something the president said?
On Thursday you can ask him directly when Obama takes questions from the public in an online town hall-style forum on the White House's Web site, www.whitehouse.gov. The Obama campaign used the internet more effectively than any other campaign in history, so it comes as no surprise that they would continue that cyber outreach from the White House.
They are deeming this forum an "experiment" where Americans can send questions and vote for the submissions they like.
So far, 14,520 people have submitted 17,511 questions and have cast 541,461 votes.
The president will be standing at a podium in front of an audience made up of "real Americans," the White House said. An administration official will moderate the event and pose the most popular questions submitted on the Web site to the president.
In addition the president will take questions from the audience in the room and will field questions from YouTube submissions which will be played back on a monitor in the room. The event will be open to the press, but the president will not take questions from reporters.
"One of my priorities as president is opening up the White House to the American people so that folks can understand what we're up to and have a chance to participate themselves," Obama says in a greeting posted on the White House Web site. "Many of you are worried and have a lot of questions and you want to know what your government is doing to get our economy back on track. You deserve those answers. That's why we're going to try something a little different."
During the post-election transition period, the Obama team had a similar forum set up on their Web site where Americans could submit questions and receive responses.
The Bush administration had an online series called "Ask the White House," where Americans could engage in a live chat with administration officials, but the president himself never took part.
The Obama administration continues to demonstrate its eagerness to branch out beyond the Washington media establishment for interviews and credentials for presidential news conferences, and look for forums where the president can engage more directly with the American people.
When the Bush administration issued a press credential to a blogger for a daily press briefing in 2005, it made headlines because it was the first time a Web writer had been granted such access.
That was then, this is now and the notion of a blogger being a novelty act in the briefing room doesn't even raise eyebrows.
White House officials have said that they want to provide opportunities for the president to speak directly to the American people, above that mainstream media "filter" that his predecessor lamented.
Last week, Obama worked on his NCAA tournament brackets while the ESPN cameras rolled. While on the West Coast, he visited to the set of "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" to push his economic plans. After a sit-down interview in the Oval Office, the president gave a tour of the White House grounds, including the new swing set, to the television program "60 Minutes." He has conducted several sessions with reporters from smaller, regional newspapers.