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Meet Your Obama Town Hall Tweet 'Curators'

BY Nick Judd | Tuesday, July 5 2011

In a blog post on the official Twitter blog, the company explained that questions during the live town hall-style event it's hosting with President Barack Obama will be selected algorithmically and by a team of curators Twitter describes as "a team of seasoned Twitter users with experience discussing the economy."

They include the editor-in-chief of the University of North Carolina's student newspaper; a personal finance columnist for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune in Minnesota; an online content producer for the North County Times in California; the director of DePaul University's Coleman Center, a Chicago, Ill.-based center for entrepreneurs; someone from Modeled Behavior, the blog led by Karl Smith, a UNC-Chapel Hill economics professor and self-described right-wing liberal economics blogger; the business editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune; and the editorial page editor of the New Hampshire Union Leader.

These folks will be tasked with mining the Twitter streams of their communities for top questions to pose to the president.

The use of Twitter curators takes a page from an earlier event the White House held in which NPR's Andy Carvin and Institute for Middle East Studies Director Marc Lynch found questions and White House foreign policy adviser Ben Rhodes fielded them in an event that was streamed live online.

The gist of the reaction to that event including on this blog, seemed to be: Huh, that kinda worked.

Then as now, questions remain about how it works, exactly, to be a journalist basically collaborating to create an experience on the White House's terms. But those questions have been around for a long time. The main White House pool report, this guy who has never been in the White House press corps learned recently, comes to pool members through the White House, while TV, radio and wire service poolers share their reports directly. (The White House doesn't vet the report, Politico notes.) A White House pool reporter following Vice President Joe Biden to a fund-raising event was confined to a closet, or, at least, a closet-like room during a portion of the event because he wasn't allowed to speak to guests. While it isn't arranged by the White House, correspondents covering the White House set a seating chart for White House press briefings. It isn't unusual, in short, for there to be choreography around encounters with top figures in the White House.

How that choreography will translate into the networked world, how it should, or if it should in the first place, all remain open questions.

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