The Blogger as White House Aide
BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, March 4 2010
What, you don't subscribe to Delta Sky Magazine? You're missing out, then, on this interview with White House director of online programs Jesse Lee. As a Hill and DCCC vet, Lee has depth of experience in government and politics that is probably matched by only a few blog/new media folks. Here's how Lee describes his gig, and the role of the new media team in the White House:
My title is “online programs director,” but given that this is the first New Media department in the White House, we all have to kind of make up our roles on the fly. In practice, I’m the managing editor of whitehouse.gov and the main writer for the blog. I conceptualize and execute a lot of the online engagement from online town halls with the president to the more regular online video chats with senior policy folks. And I also serve as a sort of liaison to bloggers, which means I have one foot in the broader communications and press shops, and am also the main new media contact for other offices in the White House like the Office of Health Reform and the Office of Public Engagement. It’s a lot of hats, but it actually reflects well on how well integrated new media is here, which is a challenge most organizations haven’t conquered yet (we’re not just “the Internet people” as is often the case).
There was a concern when the White House new media team got its start that it would, in org-chart or in practice, be circumscribed by its place as part of the White House's communications wing. But, as Lee describes and as observation tells us, the new media shop seems to have relatively comfortably settled into a role of part outreach, part activism, part organizing, and part a dozen other things. That's probably aided by the fact that they used lingo like "Facetweet," as Lee says. That probably scares the rest of the White House staff into giving them some space.
It's a fun and enlightening interview, in general. And Lee touches on the pressing question of what a guy like him wears to work in the White House:
As a blogger, I’m actually required to wear pajamas to work, and my office was remodeled as a replica of my mom’s basement (which is sad, because it is unfinished and floods in the rain).
Hee. But take this as insight into what passes for wild and crazy behavior in DC:
Just kidding—suit and tie every day, though I have been known to wear brown shoes from time to time.
Brown shoes! Call down the Secret Service. He works in the joint.