Fast Company

Real Change in Washington: Obama Announces Plan to Update Fireside Chats

Reports that Obama plans to bring the President’s weekly “fireside chat” into the new century surfaced this weekend. The president elect plans to not just offer the chats on the radio, but on YouTube as well.

Reports that Obama plans to bring the President’s weekly “fireside chat” into the new century surfaced this weekend. The president elect plans to not just offer the chats on the radio, but on YouTube as well.

Every week, Obama will address the public in a four-minute-long video that will be posted on his transition site, Change.gov. Expected to accompany these videos are online Q&As and video interviews with White House staff. And in the coming weeks, members of the transition team, policy experts, and his selections for the Cabinet will record videos that will be uploaded to the site. The administration also expects to launch a White House YouTube channel once it takes office.

I imagine that this news will make a lot of people in younger generations thoroughly “amped”. Imagine if the administration uses sites like TubeMogul (as ReadWriteWeb suggests) to cross-post videos across the Internet, uses Hulu and YouTube more consistently, and creates live broadcasts, podcasts, and RSS Feeds. Obama could surpass the technological efforts of the Bush Administration in a matter of months.

First of all, the simple fact that our President shows an interest in, and knowledge of, something that younger Americans spend a lot of their time employing (even if they don’t think about it that way), means a lot. And secondly, what’s even better is that this holds great potential for participatory democracy and representative government. People will be encouraged to actually watch Obama’s weekly State of the Unions, especially given the opportunity to post video responses to what they see and hear.

Sure, posting videos to YouTube is easy and yes, for those paying attention, Obama’s account on Twitter has been silent since the election. But even if this effort at transparency is superficial, it’s a step in the right direction.

Ellen Miller, who works for a D.C. based nonprofit that advocates for government transparency said it best: "We're living, after all, in the Internet era. This is an individualized version of the 'fireside chats.' It's not delivered between 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. but whenever anyone wants to see it. I don't know if it necessarily creates transparency -- it's still a controlled, one-way message. But it creates the aura of a much more accessible presidency."

In addition, the announcement that Obama will create the first Chief Technology Officer in United States history goes a long way towards convincing Silicon Valley and the giants of the Technology Industry that it is serious about progressive tech policy. When the transition team made this announcement, the blogosphere practically shook with geeky enthusiasm. And considering the hot new topic in Silicon Valley is green investing, the Obama Administration stands to win from any effort to make the Tech Industry feel that it has a stake in the administration’s decisions.

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