Framing the Dialogue

BHO Network

The new, open media has allowed virtually anyone to produce their own media outlet. For less than ten dollars you can register your domain name at GoDaddy, set up a WordPress account and be on your way. It’s getting the audience that is the tough part. (By the way thank all of you for continuing to read FramingTheDialogue! – tell your friends) If you have ten or twenty million dollars you can start your own cable network like Al Gore’s “Nobody Knows The Name Network” or Oprah’s “O” network. Even for big names like Oprah and Gore getting the audience is still the rough part. Neither of them has done particularly well.

Savvy politicians have embraced the new media to their advantage and sites like FaceBook, Twitter, and YouTube have helped them get their message out and most importantly for professional, career politicians they can help them raise money. Former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson has kept us entertained with his frequent tweets about the current occupant of the White House.

The common thread, however, is that we are all private citizens who do this of our own accord and with out own resources (time and money). It is established fact that “main-stream” media outlets (network television and most newspapers and magazines) are left-leaning or far left. You would think that with this media cabal at his beck and call President Obama wouldn’t need his own network. Perhaps former media darling Hilary Clinton provided enough evidence to Obama about how fickle and vindictive the main-stream media can be. Media elitists seem to love nothing more than building someone up and them tearing them back down.

Obama was commonly attributed to have a robust Internet presence during his campaign and decided to break a commitment to accept public campaign financing in lieu of private donations. Breaking his word rewarded him with a financial bonanza as he dominated the finances of John McCain. The Obama Administration has continued their use of new media including a controversial web site that sought to have citizens report other citizens who were thought to be spreading “untruthful” e-mails about White House policies. This hit a little too close to “Big Brother” for many and was toned down, but not removed.

It seems like the honeymoon may be over as the main-stream media has actually asked two or three tough questions of the White House in the past six months. The true evidence of the tarnish was a recent article by ABC News’ Devin Dwyer which ran with the headline;

Obama’s Media Machine: State Run Media 2.0?

I think that Rush Limbaugh coined the “state run media” phrase, but I am sure that he enjoyed its use by ABC News. The text from the first paragraph explicitly states why there are long faces at main-stream media outlets, “President Obama’s White House media operation is demonstrating an unprecedented ability to broadcast its message through social media and the Internet, at times doing an end-run around the traditional press.” [Emphasis added] Ordinarily I would find this squabble humorous, but it comes to mind that my tax dollars are paying for all of these “broadcasts.” So what propaganda are we paying for? Some highlights from the White House Press Office include:

  • It produces a website, blog
  • It has a YouTube channel
  • It maintains a Flickr photo stream
  • It has a Facebook profile
  • It has Twitter profiles
  • It also produces a mix of daily video programming
  • Live video coverage of the president’s appearances
  • Produces “news-like” shows that highlight his accomplishments
  • A newly launched online programming called “Advise the Adviser: Your Direct Line to the White House.” This site encourages viewers to offer “advice, opinions and feedback on important issues” and promises a response from a senior administration official in return.
  • Also available on the BO Network is “Open for Questions,” a periodic series of live moderated video chats with officials.
  • If that is not to your liking then there is “West Wing Week,” which seems to be an “E Television” styled show featuring our fearless leader.

So what does the main-stream media and academia think of State Run Media 2.0?

“The administration has narrowed access by the mainstream media to an unprecedented extent,” said ABC News White House correspondent Ann Compton, who has covered seven administrations. “Access here has shriveled.”

“But some say the current dynamic is different, and dangerous.”

“They’re opening the door to kicking the press out of historic events, and opening the door to having a very filtered format for which they give the American public information that doesn’t have any criticism allowed,” said University of Minnesota journalism professor and political communication analyst Heather LaMarre.”

“They want to ask the questions themselves, post questions on the White House blog, tweet the president or Robert Gibbs directly. They don’t think, ‘Oh my gosh, this is bypassing an important filter of information.’ They don’t care about the filter.”

And the “filters” (main-stream media) are not happy. There are many of us who prefer the new-media because of the filters used by the main-stream, left-leaning media outlets. We, perhaps, don’t want Katie Couric or William Cronkite deciding what we should hear. The old-media don’t mind that there are filters as long as they are the filters. In some ways what Obama is doing is a good thing (I hesitated to see if I would be struck by lightening) by getting his message out, but what if Bush, Reagan, or Newt Gingrich had tried the same thing? The next Republican in the White House will use the same methods to communicate further diminishing the stranglehold (“filter”) of the old-media. It will be interesting to see if Obama attacks ABC as he done repeatedly to Fox News and talk radio.

My last comment is, however, a reminder that our tax dollars are paying for this communication. Incumbents always seem to have an advantage over challengers in that they are in office and visible. What is troubling is how these networks will be used solely to create a persona, unchallenged by opposition that can be used to further Obama’s electoral success in 2012. That is the troubling part for me. Isn’t “State Run Media 2.0” just a slicker version of third world dictators hanging posters of themselves all over town?

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