Meet the man behind WhiteHouse.gov

Mar 05, 2009 By Eric Benderoff, Chicago Tribune

Macon Phillips understands the new media scene, one that combines politics and technology to talk directly to the people. Phillips works for President Barack Obama as the White House's new media director, a new job for an administration that embraces technology.

Since he introduced the revamped WhiteHouse.gov on Jan. 20, Phillips has spent more time managing the daily flow of news from the White House during a challenging economic environment than considering the big picture of how to build the administration's new media message.

But he's happy to provide more government transparency.

"We're serving as a connector between the policymakers and the citizens that put them in office," said Phillips, 30, who worked for Blue State Digital, a political consultancy that leverages new media tools. "There's a lot to learn. I don't have any experience in government other than being a taxpayer."

With social media tools sweeping the Internet, led by interactions on Facebook and YouTube, politicians can put out their messages first, without interference.

"A lot of the work we're doing hasn't been done before" for a president, he said.

Obama used the tools of modern communication masterfully to help him win election to the White House.

There will be criticism of the White House's new media efforts "if the level of transparency they talk about isn't met," said Kelly Cutler, chief executive of Chicago's Marcel Media, a Web development agency.

But that should be tempered, at least initially, because the White House is making the effort to reach out, as Obama said during the election.

Phillips' "job is a big part of who Obama is," Cutler offered. "What he did with social media during the campaign made us think we were getting a president in step with technology. I don't think that would have been the case with John Kerry or John McCain."

Phillips acknowledges that the White House site will draw critics.

"We're not the only viewpoint," he said. "I don't anticipate anyone else being quiet now that we are here."

With social media, one of the challenges is allowing your critics to speak, even on the Web sites you control.

"The Internet has open standards," Phillips said. "We're thinking of ways that we can be part of the process."

Phillips joined the Obama campaign during the general election.

"I was out in Grant Park the night Obama won the election," he said. He had celebratory beers later that night and went straight to the office at 8:30 the next morning to "turn on Change.gov."

That site was the forerunner of the rebuilt WhiteHouse.gov.

The old WhiteHouse.gov was "boring, not informative and static," Cutler said, calling the new version timely. "There's a Web 2.0 philosophy behind it. It's being used for interactivity and transparency, it's not just pushing information onto the Web."

WhiteHouse.gov not only includes videos (such as the president's recent trip to Canada) and photo slide shows, but it also details Obama's homeowner stability program and speeches by other administration officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There's a blog that's updated several times a day.

What excites Phillips is the opportunity to spread the message of new media _ direct communication, interaction through a blog, the use of videos - to help Washington's career politicians.

"The career people are thrilled to tackle this," Phillips said.

___

(c) 2009, Chicago Tribune.
Visit the Chicago Tribune on the Internet at www.chicagotribune.com/
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Explore further: New privacy battle looms after moves by Apple, Google

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NY judge: TV clip service not violating copyright

Sep 09, 2014

A New York judge says a company distributing television clips and snippets of transcripts to customers including the White House and members of Congress has not violated broadcasters' copyrights.

We need to talk about the sexual abuse of scientists

Sep 08, 2014

The life sciences have come under fire recently with a study published in PLOS ONE that investigated the level of sexual harassment and sexual assault of trainees in academic fieldwork environments. ...

US cyber-warriors battling Islamic State on Twitter

Aug 31, 2014

The United States has launched a social media offensive against the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda, setting out to win the war of ideas by ridiculing the militants with a mixture of blunt language and sarcasm.

3Qs: Citizen journalism in Ferguson

Aug 21, 2014

Tensions have escalated in Ferguson, Missouri, following the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, by a white police officer. The incident has led to peaceful protests ...

Is anyone immune to the social media echo chamber?

Aug 13, 2014

It's becoming increasingly obvious that as we spend more time communicating via social media, we are disappearing into bubbles. We receive information from the same sources and witness the views of the same ...

Decoding ethnic labels

Jul 30, 2014

If you are of Latin American descent, do you call yourself Chicano? Latino? Hispanic?

Recommended for you

Say Ello to the new privacy debate on social media

Sep 29, 2014

Ello is new social networking space on the web that is receiving a lot of attention of late – so much that it's caused a few problems with the website out of action from time to time. ...

Post-Snowden, iPhone 6 encryption fans safety debate

Sep 28, 2014

Encryption technology in the iPhone 6 has taken root in a scales-of-justice debate between privacy supporters and public safety officials. Apple is using a more advanced encryption technology.

User comments : 0