Web Video & the Obama Presidency: 10 Ways Team Obama Should Use MultiMedia
BY Dan Manatt | Wednesday, November 12 2008
TO: Obama Technology Team
FROM: Dan Manatt/PoliticsTV.com
DATE: November 12, 2008
RE: Web Video & the Obama Presidency
Congratulations on the election and the transition.
You revolutionized the way campaigns are run. And now, you are about to revolutionize the way the presidency is run.
Thank you for the opportunity you gave me to produce some of President-elect Obama’s early campaign Web Videos. In that vein – like everyone else in Internet politics these days – I figure I might add my 2 cents of unsolicited advice on how the Obama Administration should use video and rich media tools.
President-elect Obama rightly warned that making progress on the big foreign & domestic policy initiatives facing the nation will take time and compromise.
The digital democracy/transparency initiatives, by contrast, can be executed beginning day one, without the need to compromise with Congress or world allies.
Your campaign platform on digital democracy, ethics and transparency, lays out an excellent roadmap to begin bringing the Presidency into the 21st century, http://www.barackobama.com/issues/ethics/index.php. And of course the speculation has already begun on how change.gov will morph into whitehouse.gov – and what becomes of barackobama.com. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/10/AR2008111000013.html.
The technological transformation of the presidency – and its use of technology to make the executive branch more responsive, interactive, and transparent – can, from day one, be the first great achievement and legacy of the Obama Presidency. It can also be a means to continue togenerate political good will and capital – commodities that often evaporate quickly after a typical presidential honeymoon. So it not only makes good policy sense, it makes good political sense.
Web Video: The First, Now Almost Forgotten Obama Internet Tool
Now, more specifically, how the Obama Administration should use Web Video:
Web Videos were a key tool in the campaign. From President-elect Obama’s January 2007 Web Video announcement; to the independent “Yes We Can,” “Vote Different,” CrooksandLiars.com and Brave New Films videos; to the viral videos of rallies in Austin, Iowa, New Hampshire, Philadelphia, and Oregon, and everywhere in between – Web Video was key.
Web Video will be no less essential to governing as it was to campaigning and organizing.
Below are suggestions on how to harness the tool in the White House, and the executive branch:
1. WhiteHouse.gov/tv: All open press public appearances by the president – press conferences, press availabilities, signing ceremonies, addresses to the nation, etc. – should be made available to the public via Web Video in real time. Make no mistake – the White House TV press corps and even WHCA, the White House Communications Agency, may resist releasing this content into the public domain. But just as BarackTV and video transparency proved a boon to your campaign, so too WhiteHouse.gov/tv can prove an essential communications tool enabling to you directly access the American public without the media filter.
2. Radio Address + Internet = President’s Weekly Webcast: It is time for the weekly presidential radio address to enter the 21st century. The address, the president’s only regular direct communication to the American people, hasn’t changed since President Reagan first instituted it in 1983. 25 years later, it is time you take the radio address into the Internet age – you could even start during the transition.
3. GovTube: Web Video has been used by the White House going back to the webcast of President Clinton’s 1996 inauguration. And the current administration’s websites actually have a fair amount of Web Video content. But the content is very difficult to locate, and often in obsolete video formats.
The Obama Administration should create a video hub for the executive branch – call it GovTube – that aggregates all video content throughout the government in a searchable, user friendly video portal.
4. GovTube Content on YouTube et. al.: Executive branch videos, moreover, should be made available not just on official government websites, but on non-governmental sites as well. The White House should establish accounts on YouTube and other leading non-governmental sites. Potential red tape snags to having commercial sites host government videos is already being addressed: YouTube is in the process of establishing special non-commercial pages to conform to governmental requirements for Congress, and other video services should be encouraged to do the same.
5. Digital Democracy Executive Order: New Media/Transparency/Technology Officers: To accomplish these goals (and the ones below), President Obama should issue an executive order as soon as practicable directing all executive departments and agencies to implement these policies. Moreover, the Executive Order should direct all departments and agencies to create offices of, and name director of:
Large departments may require multiple staff for these tasks; small agencies may require a single staffer who can fulfill the mandate of all three positions.
6. Secretary/Agency Webcasts: This one’s already a plank in your campaign platform – executive department secretaries and agency heads should give regular (I would suggest monthly) Web Video reports on news from the agency. Some may be in town hall format, others straight reportorial format. This way, the public might even learn who their public servants are before a national challenge or crisis requires we put our trust in them. Likewise, the department secretaries and agency heads should be required to produce annual multimedia reports to citizens on their departments/agencies. These videos by the SEC and FEMA may not be as exciting as a Hollywood blockbuster, but it will generate more public exposure, scrutiny, and dialog about those agencies, and encourage the government to engage in ongoing proactive reform, rather than reforming only as a reaction to scandal.
7. The Inauguration: President Obama’s first day in office offers a tremendous opportunity to get the Digital Presidency started right. From his swearing in, to the inaugural balls, video of all events should be available via live and on demand webcast. The inaugural committee should also have a “video guest book” enabling Americans, heads of states, and well-wishers the world over to offer video greetings and express hopes for the Obama presidency.
8. State of the Union: Just a few weeks later, President Obama’s first State of the Union will offer the most important annual opportunity to engage the American public, aided by multimedia:
• Citizen Interaction: Prior to the annual address, the Administration might solicit citizen messages – videos, email, etc. – with their view on the national outlook. Perhaps in the run up to the State of the Union, the President may hold some truly interactive town halls, as Ross Perot proposed back in 1992 and Senator Clinton did in the primaries. President Obama could then incorporate some of the citizen messages into his annual message to Congress – thus it becomes not just the President’s report on the State of the Union, but American’s report on the State of the Union.
• SOTU MultiMedia Simulcast: The White House should produce a multimedia version/companion to the State of the Union – a split-screen simulcast. On one side, we see the president – on the other, charts, slides, text, etc. to illustrate and reenforce the key points of the speech. Think of it as a cross between “An Inconvenient Truth” and a traditional State of the Union.
9. The President’s Budget – A Digital, Democratic, Multimedia Document: No document is more fundamental to the United States government (that is, other than the Constitution, when it’s actually heeded) than the President’s budget. But the only place the average citizen might ever see the budget is during the annual photo opp of its release. http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2008/02/20080204-1.html
The president’s budget should become a multimedia document that makes the numbers – and the policy questions – accessible to the average citizen. The budget should be released online – not just as a pdf, as it is now, but as a multimedia, dynamic document with web apps, widgets, and appendices applying Quicken-style functionalities, dynamic charts, etc. That way Americans can visualize and understand where their $3 trillion in tax dollars (minus the $1 trillion deficit) goes to. (Perhaps not surprisingly, private sites, including Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_federal_budget, offer citizens better digital tools to understand the budget than the White House and the OMB, http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2009/).
The American people have been bystanders to the annual budget debates because the federal budget is so inaccessible. Digitize the budget and you democratize it, get the public involved – and get better policy results.
The Digital Democracy Act/Freedom of Information Act for the 21st Century
The Obama Administration, in addition to these and other actions that can be made by presidential directive or executive order, should institutionalize its digital reforms into law through legislation – call it the Digital Democracy Act, or FOIA for the 21st century. This way future administrations would not be able to discontinue the Obama Administration’s digital transparency policies without congressional action. And Speaker Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Reid, and their excellent new media staff (especially Jesse Lee, Karina Newton, and Murshed Zaheed) have been very supportive of digital/transparency measures, so the climate is very favorable for such an initiative.
The Presidency, Technology, Democracy & Transparency
This is just the tip of the iceberg of how Web Video can, along with other Internet and digital technology, be a big part of the Obama Presidency, and can be one of its great legacies.
I am sure you are way ahead of me, and have many other, greater ideas of how video tools can be deployed to advance the cause of transparency, democracy, and President Obama’s agenda.
I will be watching from the sidelines with great interest.