President Obama will hold his first ever Twitter townhall Wednesday in an attempt to engage a new and growing audience who no longer rely primarily on the mainstream media and traditional outlets for their news.
No stranger to the power of social media, Obama will respond to questions that have been streaming in using the hashtag #AskObama since the White House, through its official Twitter account, @whitehouse, announced the online “Tweet-Up” event last week. Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey will moderate the discussion, which will begin at 2 p.m.White House Communications Director Dan Pffeifer said the Twitter conversation between the President and citizens across the country will focus on the economy and jobs but won’t be limited to the topic.
“We’ve entered a different information age when people get news in different ways than they did in the past…,” Pfeiffer told reporters on a conference call Tuesday. “It is not longer sufficient [to depend on] traditional mainstream media…We’re always on the lookout for ways to have a productive interaction with the public in new and different ways.”
Obama joined billionaire Mark Zuckerberg in April for a similar event using Facebook. The timing of the events, as Obama’s campaign for re-election revs into gear, as well as their content, have raised questions about whether Obama is using White House resources appropriately.
At the April Facebook townhall, Obama took plenty of shots at Republicans.
“The Republican budget put forward is fairly radical, but I would not call it courageous,” Obama said during the Facebook chat. “You can call that bold; I would call it shortsighted.”
White House Director of New Media Macon Phillips also said 30 Twitter users from around the country are flying in to attend and participate in the White House Twitter townhall. The participants were selected randomly and are paying their for their travel on their own, Phillips noted.
In large part, Twitter will have control of any vetting and filtering of the questions, according to Phillips and Pfeiffer. But Obama’s doesn’t have to worry about having to limit his sound-bites to the pithy 140 characters count Twitter allows because he will be answering verbally on a White House livestream.