Where To Be On The Web During The State Of The Union Address

From Twitter to Tumblr to Truth-o-meter, there are plenty of ways to share your rants and raves about tonight’s speech plus fact-checking.

Where To Be On The Web During The State Of The Union Address
[Photo: Flickr user Steven Pisano]

Like millions of Americans you might be dual-screening it for the State of the Union address tonight. That is, keeping one eye on the TV and one eye on the interwebs.


The TV experience is pretty much static: Punditry, punditry, punditry, president announced, president speaks, Democrats clap, Republicans glower, speech ends, GOP responds, punditry, punditry, punditry.

On the web, of course, coverage of the event is far more fragmented and diverse. This year, perhaps more than any other year, the web content promises to be more interesting, and more spicy, than the TV coverage.

During this, his final State of the Union address, President Obama will likely spend plenty of time reviewing his administration’s accomplishments over the past seven years. Obama has largely failed to control the overall narrative around his legacy, his accomplishments in office, and will work to fix that tonight. The public’s view of that legacy could have real effects on the Democrat’s fortunes in November’s presidential election. The numbers show that the party of a highly-thought-of outgoing president has a very good chance of retaining the presidency.

President Obama will also talk about his administration’s strategy against terrorism around the world and at home, and about his work on gun control.


The video-sharing site will play a huge part in this year’s State of the Union (“SOTU”) address, as millions of people–especially younger, millennial types–move from traditional linear TV to mobile, social, and digital channels.

This year, after the address, the president will go to the East Room of the White House for a live interview with three YouTube celebrities. The celebs include 26-year-old Ingrid Nilsen (aka “Missglamorazzi”), video gamer Adande Thorne (aka “sWooZie), and educational video maker Destin Sandlin (aka Destin Sandlin). This, hopefully, will be free-flowing and organic, but the exact format remains to be seen. It all depends on the questions chosen, but it is certainly worth a watch.



A Twitter spokesperson told Reuters that the State of the Union speech has generated progressively more tweets each year of the micro-blogging site’s existence. By 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, around 25,000 tweets had been published with the #SOTU hashtag.

During the address tonight, all sorts of political players will be responding on Twitter. Among the most interesting will be the GOP primary candidates. We’re at a point in the GOP primary campaign when the candidates–especially the frontrunners–begin aiming their barbs at the incumbent a bit more.

The leader of the pack, Donald Trump, will certainly have some snarky/unfiltered/unhinged things to say about POTUS and the address. @realDonaldTrump

Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) will likely be tweeting as well, especially if he sees a chance to use the word #carpetbomb.

As will Marco Rubio (@marcorubio), and, perhaps less interestingly, Jeb Bush (@JebBush).

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (@SenateMajLdr) has already begun his commentary today. Here’s an uplifting tweet from Mitch (or a staffer) earlier:


House Speaker Paul Ryan (@SpeakerRyan) may have some free moments to chime in, too. Like this:

And you can see plenty of polite chitchat at the White House’s own Twitter feed. Like this:

Barack Obama’s own Twitter account (@BarackObama) now has nearly 6 million followers. We doubt he’ll be tweeting during the speech, but you never know.


The White House been putting a lot of energy behind expanding into digital channels. It’s now present on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Tumblr.

The White House even worked with the ephemeral messaging app Snapchat to launch its own account on that service Monday. The account will be used to present a behind-the-scenes look at the SOTU address, including the preparations for the speech happening in the Oval Office, according to the White House.

The administration worked out a deal with Snapchat to make sure that presidential snaps wouldn’t actually disappear, so that the presidential record could remain intact, even on Snapchat. This is required by the Presidential Records Act.


The White House will also publish an annotated version of the speech on Genius, a site that lets users add line-by-line annotations to any page on the Internet. This could be particularly interesting, as it will include information and commentary from Obama’s speechwriters and aides, as well as VP Joe Biden.

Related: Will 2016 Be The Snapchat Election?

Shouting Matches

If you’re like me, you find it interesting to hear the wrangling and ad hominem attacks used by “libtards” in their verbal fights with conservative “wingnuts” as they battle it out in the comments sections. There should be plenty of people around the country staying up late to fight the good fight tonight.

It’s not just cage fighting. Well, it’s mostly cage fighting, but on occasion you can learn some new angles on the issues. Of course it’s a good idea to keep your B.S. detector on “high filter” when reading this stuff.

Some of the most vigorous, and entertaining, partisan debates I’ve read have been in the comments sections of articles at the websites of The Atlantic, NPR, Mother Jones, Washington Post, Fox, National Review, USA Today, and MSNBC.

All of these sites will have general coverage of the president’s address, but the best debates will most likely come in the comments sections of stories about heated topics like gun control and terrorism.

Cable Network Sites will be all over the address tonight, starting hours before and ending hours afterward. But the network already has some great warmup content up at its site to get you in the mood.


First and foremost is CNN’s The State of the Union Address as a Wes Anderson Film, in which you’ll see perhaps the most moving slow-motion shot of Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) in existence (at 2:17):

You’ll find other helpful videos about what to expect from the speech, and a bunch of footage from past SOTUs–those of Obama and other presidents.

State of the Union: 68 Years in 68 Seconds

And CNN will run the speech live at its site, along with the GOP response, which will be given by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley:

C-SPAN is arguably the best place to go online for an unbiased look at the SOTU address tonight.

The site will feature commentary from both Republicans and Democrats before and after the address. This will include the “State of the Union Statuary Hall Interviews,” in which members of Congress react to President Obama’s final State of the Union address. The feature will air live at 10 p.m. Eastern Time tonight.


C-SPAN already has a feature up called “Senate Leaders on the State of the Union,” in which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) talk about the issues to be discussed in tonight’s address. They also reflect back on President Obama’s full time in office. Early in the Obama presidency, McConnell declared that his party’s primary objective should be to deny Barack Obama a second term in office.

The PBS News Hour will broadcast the speech live at its site, and now offers video.

Fox News and MSNBC have their own pre-produced and live coverage of the event.

Fact Checkers

And just to keep it all real throughout the night, make sure to bookmark some good fact-checking sites lined up for quick reference. My go-to fact checker sites are Politifact and Others worth visiting are the Sunlight Foundation, and Just Facts, which admits to having a slightly right-of-center bent. You can find additional fact-checking at National Journal, CQ Roll Call, and the Center for Public Integrity.

Enjoy the show.


About the author

Fast Company Senior Writer Mark Sullivan covers emerging technology, politics, artificial intelligence, large tech companies, and misinformation. An award-winning San Francisco-based journalist, Sullivan's work has appeared in Wired, Al Jazeera, CNN, ABC News, CNET, and many others.