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 bigdialog.org 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.