Joho the Blog » After press conferences, what?

After press conferences, what?

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.

13 Responses to “After press conferences, what?”

  1. I’m afraid…
    “constructive” = “objective” + “timid” + “professional”
    … in the minds of most college trained people.

    Not easy devising an organic filtering mechanism. May be the anticipated PeopleRank (by Google) could help.

  2. The Opposition, Government and cross-benchers (of which you have few) all ask questions of the executive* during Question Time.

    Questions from members of the Government to Ministers are generally opportunities to them to wax lyrical on the Government’s achievements and point out the failures of Opposition policy… and highlight their inevitably bad record while in Government. ;-)

    * Remember that in Westminster-ish parliamentary systems, the executive/cabinet is comprised of legislative representatives. Questions are almost always asked of cabinet members, but backbenchers are very occasionally asked about their particular areas of responsibility (mostly to do with their activities on committees).

  3. Does Question Time in Parliament work well, really?

    I don’t know one way or the other, but I’ve watched it fair bit and it seems like a kabuki dance to me, predictable and choreographed. It looks vigorous and robust to Yanks because we have no analog, but I doubt there is much genuine information exchange there.

    Agreed about press conferences. We need a better, third way.

  4. Note: I’m less cynical than most about Question Time.

    It’s like chess: everyone knows the moves, but a good player can still surprise a bad or inexperienced player, and an expert player can still blindside and demolish a good player.

    Government backbenchers ask Ministers fairly predictable questions and will often add something like, “and does the Minister know of alternative views?” which gives the Government an opportunity to dress down the Opposition for their shitty policies.

    Opposition frontbenchers ask Ministers fairly predictable, repetitive, loaded questions… most of the time. Every now and then, they’ll find a smoking gun, and proceed to skewer the Government on a particular policy, outcome or behaviour.

    It’s a fantastic venue to get the measure of a person who represents you and is responsible for governing the country.

    Gosh I’d love to see US politicians holding each other to account in a similar manner.

  5. [...] David Weinberger asks: “After press conferences, what?” Imho: A hybrid of newsroom and press conference. And it must be open, unlike newsrooms and press conferences of the past. [...]

  6. [...] David Weinberger asks: “After press conferences, what?” [...]

  7. [...] thinker and political operator David Weinberger has posed an interesting question: how do we design a question-and-answer format for politicians that is truly [...]

  8. Inspired by this post and a Facebook entry by Andrew McLaughlin, I decided to use my knowledge of journalism and online public participation to draw up a draft of what a truly democratic (and functional) Q&A might look like.

    See what you think: http://kierenmccarthy.com/2010/02/08/what-does-a-truly-democratic-qa-format-look-like/

  9. [...] Then we unfolded the ideas in Dave’s post Hypercamp Revisted, inspired by Obama’s event with Republicans in Baltimore and David Weinberger’s response. [...]

  10. [...] David Weinberger asks: “After press conferences, what?” [...]

  11. Joho the Blog » After press conferences…

    Joho the Blog » After press conferences, what?…

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    Joho the Blog » After press conferences, what?…

  13. It appears that its OK to legislate YOUR lifestyle as being legally recognized but its not OK to have natural marriage legally recognized. Natural Law alone advocates for one male and one female, of legal age, to unite in what used to be a binding contract. You can not equate what our founders advocated at the creation of the Constitution with todays norms. They were very RELIGIOUS and, although they didnt want a national religion imposed on the nation they did make it so the Constitution protects the freedom of worship i.e., religion. The Federalist Papers explain what the founders wanted for this nation. Since they were Christians they would not want, wish, or desire anything outside of the Bible to come into question. People who adamantly stray outside the precepts of God reject God. They claim His laws are too hard to follow and then come the excuses. If they want to remain religious they shop around for a church that has changed its interpretations, has become multicultural, and politically correct. All are welcome and no one has to stop sinning. Sounds like Lucifer is laughing his butt off because not only has man taken to tearing out those passages in the Bible that dont fit his/her desires but has actually changed the name of the Book to the bible according to put your name here. No one has to judge you for you have judged yourself and the fact that you are so defensive pretty much says it all. BTW, you might want to read the Declaration of Independence and go on from there. Read the writings of our founders. Im sorry you and others like you feel that alternate lifestyles need to be accepted by society but it is too dangerous. I, for one, will not accept the packaging of this evil as something good. This is the perversion of the devil and I will pray God opens your heart to the vileness that has permeated society.

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