After watching President Obama at the Republican Caucus, it’s clearer than ever that press conferences need to go the way of press releases. They are just too constricted for the opportunities and temper of the new connected age. The reporters are too interested in getting headlines, and would rather appear fair and balanced than chase down the truth. We do better, it turns out, when the President is questioned by people who can acknowledge that they really, really disagree with him.
So, what do we replace press conferences with? Or, more realistically, what can we supplement them with?
We know that Question Time in the British Parliament works well in Britain. But, it’d be good for democratic reasons to open it up to The People. Also, why should you have to disagree with the President to press him on an issue?
The problem, of course, is deciding who among us gets to ask a question. So, how about if questions were awarded to people who participate in particularly constructive ways , on any side of an issue, in the comments section of the White House blog (once comments are allowed)? This would be a mighty incentive for engaging civilly in the comments section.
But, then we’d need a way to decide who to pick. If it’s done algorithmically (e.g., have two buttons: I like this comment and I disagree with this comment), it can be gamed. If it’s done by human editors at the White House, it’s subject to charges of favoritism. So, how about if two or three known and respected people in their communities were chosen to select questioners from among the commenters; these people would represent different political views. New selectors would be chosen for each Presidential Q&A session.
Obviously, I don’t know exactly how to do this. But, in the Age of the Web it seems clear to me that we need to supplement press conferences with forums that replace objectivity with transparency, timidity with passion, and professionals with all of us.