YouTube Fireside Chats Need to Be Interactive


So this morning Jose Vargas reports in the Washington Post that the President-elect will record YouTube videos of his regular Saturday morning radio chats. The new administration is touting this as partial delivery on its pledge to use the Internet to engage with citizens and to create more transparency. But I actually don’t see it that way.

Yes, this move will give the new Administration another way to broadcast its message to  folks. And people on the receiving end don’t have to tune in at a specific time, the way you do for the radio address. No doubt more people will hear these weekly messages because of that and that’s a good thing. But what does a YouTubing talking head really do in terms of engaging citizens or for providing more transparency?

The way it’s been outlined thus far, we’re still looking at an old style  “Fireside” chat in a new format. How about providing for a little more interactivity around it? Use the White House YouTube channel to solicit questions from people, and invite the public to vote their favorites to the top? That’s what David Cameron, the British Conservative Party Leader, did with “WebCameron.” And that’s what the coalition is trying to do now. How about creating real conversations such as online chats with the president or cabinet officials? Or how about simply providing opportunities for people to respond to the messages, by opening up comments on the YouTube Platform.

And as for transparency, I don’t see how one-way messages provide any more transparency for the work of the White House or government than the current old style radio addresses.

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  • Elyas,

    “Online Q&As and video interviews” doesn’t say a lot — it really depends on how the Q&As are conducted (who is able to ask questions, how are the questions chosen) and who is doing the interviewing.

    I think it’s great to raise the questions that Ellen does here. There is no guarantee that a YouTube channel need be anything more than a high-tech broadcast. In fact, that’s likely what it’ll be, unless we demand more.

    That said, I’m not sure YouTube’s comments are the best forum for constructive discussion/feedback. I’d love to see them use YouTube as a secondary platform, and to set something up that’s a bit more geared to meaningful interaction between hundreds of thousands of people. High order, for sure, we’ll see if Obama’s seemingly web savvy team can serve it up.

  • Ellen Miller

    I understood that the online Q and A’s and video interviews would be something separate from the YouTube weekly addresses. I expect, eventually, robust interconnectivity using new tech tool. But posting YouTube videos of radio chats (which is what this announcement was about) isn’t that. I’m want to gently remind the new Administration that they changed everyone’s expectations about using new technologies during the campaign and so we have high expectations about the same when it comes to governing.

  • If BHO conducts “online Q&As and video interviews”, you can be assured they’ll be setups. The interviews might be with an inept host, like SteveGrove of Youtube. Or, the questions will be screened so only those he can easily answer will be allowed.

    And, the idea of voting “their favorites to the top” shows that Ellen Miller is either clueless or isn’t interested in too much sunlight. Allowing Youtube visitors to vote their favorites will simply result in ObamaGirl asking all the questions.

    See this for much more on how much BigDialog looks like a sham:

  • The fourth paragraph in the article you linked to:

    “the transition office say the Obama White House will also conduct online Q&As and video interviews.”

    Doesn’t sound like one-way messaging. Please, jump to conclusions AFTER reading the full article.