Ted Bobrow

Ubiquitous Obama Adjusts to Evolving Media Universe

By - Jun 4th, 2009 01:27 pm
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While media mavens struggle to figure out how to earn a buck selling the news, the tsunami of changes they face also presents enormous challenges for the folks who make the news.

Way back in the last century, when a president wanted to make news he simply walked into the White House Rose Garden and whatever he said was quickly fed to the nation and world via the Associated Press, The New York Times, the major broadcast and cable television networks and a handful of other major media organizations.

Occasionally, if the president wanted to speak directly to the public, he would deliver an address to the nation that the networks felt obligated to broadcast live during the post-dinner hours that were quaintly referred to as primetime.

But that was then. These days, fewer and fewer people are getting their news from traditional sources. The preponderance of cable news networks, internet news options and the rapid growth of news on demand offered by cellphones and PDAs make it increasingly difficult for our political leaders, not to mention all the others who are competing for our attention, to get their messages out to their desired audiences.

What this means is, well, actually we really don’t know yet what this all means. But it certainly means things are changing at an incredibly rapid pace and whatever worked yesterday is out of date before the ink dries on today’s newspapers. There’s a metaphor that has probably outlived its usefulness.

Clearly, President Obama has his hands full trying to control the news cycle and get his message out while dealing with a recession, fighting two wars and otherwise running the country.

You have to give the guy credit; just this last week or so he managed to announce the nomination of a new Supreme Court Justice, oversee the conditions for GM to declare bankruptcy, ensure that no less than five Congressional committees are moving forward with proposals to reform the nation’s health care system, all before heading off to the Middle East to deliver a speech intended to restart America’s relationship with the world’s Islamic population.

Everyone seemed to agree that candidate Obama made remarkable use of the internet during the campaign. But doesn’t that seem a long, long time ago? During his first few months in office, President Obama experimented with a few innovations such as an internet public hearing and distributing his weekly address in video on YouTube.

The White House’s efforts to get its message out can sometimes take your breath away. One minute you’ve got NBC News anchor Brian Williams following Obama around for a day winning the president a delicious, fat wet kiss for two nights on the network.

Then The New York Times runs a story that gushes about how effectively All The President’s Men (let’s face it, they are mostly men) are working with Congress, especially on health care reform.

And you couldn’t turn on a computer the last 24 hours or so without getting invited to access Obama’s address in Egypt via the internet.

The amazing thing is that the president’s staff, including David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel and others, seems to be reinventing the book almost every day.

It’s not like they had it all figured out when they took office. The first few months produced barely a tweet or a Facebook post from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And the barrage of information that is now descending upon us from the administration may still need to be tweaked in order to figure out how to best engage the twitterverse.

Trying to stay on top of this Brave New World of information dissemination is like trying to take a sip from a fire hose. Everyone is struggling to figure it out but I am delighted to see that President Obama and his White House staff are managing it all as well as they are.

Where will it all lead? Damned if I know. But I’ll close with this entertaining video that pokes fun at the whole mess we find ourselves in.

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