Washington, D.C. (Vocus) March 20, 2009
A non-partisan coalition of traditional and new media today launched "Ask the President," a new online forum for citizens to submit and vote on questions for President Obama at presidential press conferences.
Ask the President is an innovative effort aiming to advance the voice of citizens and participatory media in Washington, D.C. It provides a method for the White House to include one of the most popular citizen questions, posed by a journalist, for a presidential response at press conferences.
"We hope this project can engage citizens in meaningful, detailed debates," said Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, managing editor-digital of The Washington Times, "and advance the kind of questions that are important for readers, journalists and politicians alike."
Ask the President builds on the Obama administration's initial embrace of direct dialogue with citizens online, most notably through a popular feature at Change.gov soliciting citizen questions. As an independent, bipartisan effort, Ask the President aims for a similar dialogue, but without moderation on a government website.
Citizens can begin submitting questions and voting at:
The forum enables national, transparent voting through http://www.communitycounts.com, a nonpartisan, open-source website that successfully gathered and submitted questions to presidential candidates during the 2008 primary. Visitors can submit questions in writing or on video; vote other people's questions up or down, (with one vote per I.P. address); and directly inspect the code behind the portal. Ask The President would aim to send a credentialed journalist to presidential press conferences with a list of the most popular questions selected by the public.
"Barack Obama pledged the most open, interactive government in history, and he has already made progress on that admirable goal in several policy areas," said Ari Melber, Net Movement correspondent for The Nation and a creator of Ask the President. "In that spirit, this project aims to ensure that participatory journalism has a place in the White House."
Ask The President will also reach people on social networks, including Facebook and Twitter, in order to advance discussions between traditional, social and participatory media. A group of political Twitter activists are doing outreach for the project through, http://www.twitter.com/askthepresident, appealing to political networks across the Twitter spectrum.
"On his first full day in office, President Obama promised to make government more transparent, participatory and collaborative," said Micah Sifry, cofounder of Personal Democracy Forum. "Ask the President is a citizen-driven initiative to meet President Obama on these new grounds, where the public can be a more active participant in deciding what it wants to know from its President. Hopefully, he will welcome this initiative and set a powerful example for the rest of government."
About The Washington Times
The Washington Times LLC was founded in 1982 as a general interest, full-service daily newspaper providing an independent voice in the nation's capital, and has expanded its reach as a multimedia company reaching its readers through various media platforms. The Washington Times is one of the most-often-quoted newspapers in the U.S. with a reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting and thorough coverage of politics, policy and culture. The washingtontimes.com web site includes all of the original content from the daily printed newspaper plus original content produced for online users in print, audio, visual and interactive formats, and is one of the leading newspaper web sites in the country.
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