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Change Comes to White House Web Site

Tuesday, 20 Jan 2009 03:28 PM

By Dave Eberhart

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Will Barack Obama be our first “digital” president?

At 12:01 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. the old official White House Web site went dark and a spanking new one featuring a large portrait of the new chief executive blinked to life in its place. The big difference seems to be that President Obama wants to truly engage with the people via a two-way digital pipeline.

Macon Phillips, the director of new media for the White House and one of the people who will be contributing to the new people’s blog, issued some introductory remarks.

“A short time ago, Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States and his new administration officially came to life,” Phillips said. “One of the first changes is the White House's new website, which will serve as a place for the President and his administration to connect with the rest of the nation and the world.”

Phillips noted that millions of Americans have powered Obama’s journey to the White House, many taking advantage of the internet to play a role in shaping our country's future. “WhiteHouse.gov is just the beginning of the new administration's efforts to expand and deepen this online engagement.”

The initial new media efforts, like the Obama administration itself, will center around three priorities, Phillips said, outlining the goals:

  • Communication — This site will feature in-depth content meant to keep everyone up-to-date and educated information about the state of the economy, national security, and a host of other issues. Check out the briefing room, keep tabs on the blog (RSS feed) and take a moment to sign up for e-mail updates from the President and his administration so you can be sure to know about major announcements and decisions.

  • Transparency — Obama has committed to making his administration the most open and transparent in history, and WhiteHouse.gov will play a major role. The president's executive orders and proclamations will be published for everyone to review. It also will include information about the senior leadership in the administration and the president’s policy priorities.

  • Participation — Obama started his career as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago, "where he saw firsthand what people can do when they come together for a common cause. Citizen participation will be a priority for the administration, and the Internet will play an important role. One addition to WhiteHouse.gov reflects an Obama campaign promise: "We will publish all non-emergency legislation to the website for five days, and allow the public to review and comment before the president signs it."

    Phillips said he wants to hear input from the public at large, including notions of how to make the new site more useful. There’s a special digital form to fill out to accomplish just that.

    On a lighter note, Phillips promised forthcoming slide shows of the inaugural events, the Obamas’ move into the White House, and President Obama’s first days in office.

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