March 26, 2009

Your Turn: Open For Questions

WASHINGTON - MARCH 25:  Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-ND) (C) is surrounded by reporters after a closed-door meeting of the Senate Democratic caucus at the U.S. Captiol  March 25, 2009 in Washington, DC. President Barack Obama joined the caucus at the Captiol to discuss his budget proposal.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A picture taken on March 26, 2009 in Paris shows a computer screen displaying US President Barack Obama as he speaks during an ���open for questions��� town hall meeting on the economy in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Obama answered questions on the economy submitted by people across the country via the internet. AFP PHOTO / MLADEN ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)

U.S. President Barack Obama is seen through a television video camera viewfinder as he participates in an "Open for Questions" town hall on the economy in the East Room at the White House in Washington, March 26, 2009.     REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES POLITICS)

Regarding Obama’s live, on-line, and commercially televised “Open for Questions” town hall, I was looking for an example of the exact same scene captured in a newswire image and on the White House webcast. This is the closest I could get.

What we have — beyond the picture-in-picture effect — is a photo of Obama, taken by an AP photographer, talking to a citizen on a White House monitor. Then, in the next image, we have a Getty photo, taken off a computer screen, showing Obama responding to that same citizen on the site.

Certainly, I appreciate Reuters photographer Larry Downing’s photo, taken through the viewfinder of a TV camera. To the extent Downing is framing a question, he raises questions about who’s watching and who’s mediating through which lens and what filter, and from what point of view.

I invite your thoughts not just on the access and control issues but the many other dimensions here, including use of the White House as a public/town hall space and also the Administration’s modeling of a personal, one-to-one relationship between the President and the public.

(image 1: Gerald Herbert/AP. President Barack Obama listens to a video question submitted from the Internet as he holds an ‘Open For Questions’ town hall style meeting in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 26, 2009. It was the first online town hall done in the White House. image 2: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images – Paris. image 3: Larry Downing/Reuters.)

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Michael Shaw
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