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March 25, 2009
12:21 PM

CONTACT: Ask the President Coalition

Ben Wyskida, 212.209.5426 

Ask the President Praises Obama for New Online Initiative

New and Traditional Media Launched Online Voting Portal to Advance Citizen Voices and Access to The President

White House’s Web Town Hall on Thursday Will Use Similar Model with Video Responses by The President

WASHINGTON - March 25 - Hours before President Obama's second press conference on Tuesday night, the White House announced that it will convene the first transparent, democratically accountable online town hall in American history.  The new experiment enables citizens to submit questions, vote on questions from citizens around the country, and watch the President "answer some of the most popular questions" by video on Thursday.  The Ask The President coalition, which launched an online voting portal and urged the White House to take citizen questions at presidential press conferences, welcomed Obama's "Open for Questions" initiative.

"Inviting more citizen voices into the national debate is good for democracy and journalism," said Ari Melber, a correspondent for The Nation who led the launch of Ask The President.  "The Obama White House deserves credit for moving quickly to provide more opportunities for citizens to engage and question their government."   "This represents further proof that the new media team at the White House is determined to bring the White House on par with the web as we know it today and fulfill the President's promise for a more transparent and responsive government," said PDF co-founder Andrew Rasiej.

"We are encouraging people to participate at, and we will continue working to advance citizen platforms that are open, transparent, and accountable," added Melber. "Our ultimate goal is to ensure that citizens have a recurring, legitimate route to questioning their elected government on any topic they choose -- and that we harness technology to make the government more open to the press and the people alike." 

Ask The President drew over 45,000 votes from over 5,790 people in just five days leading up to Tuesday's press conference, when the initiative had appealed to the President to field a citizen question.  The top questions were also presented to several interested White House correspondents before the press conference, and publicly available online for anyone interested in seeing which questions were important to the participating community.  The project sparked interest and debate within both traditional and new media, including coverage by the Washington Post, the New York Times, Politico, MSNBC, a wide range of blogs and a high volume of Twitter discussion.  Columbia Journalism Review credited Ask The President as an "idea whose time had come." 

Ask The President will continue to engage citizens and the White House to advance civic discussion and participation.


* Ari Melber, Net Movement correspondent for The Nation
* Katrina vanden Heuvel, Editor and Publisher of The Nation
* Micah Sifry, Co-Founder of Personal Democracy Forum 
* Andrew Rasiej, Co-Founder of Personal Democracy Forum
* Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, managing editor-digital, Washington Times
* David Colarusso, law student and former high school teacher who founded CommunityCOUNTS portal for Ask The President


Ask The President Portal:
* Nation article launching Ask The
PDF on launch: 


New York Times Caucus on Ask The President
Columbia Journalism Review on Ask The President:
* Twitter discussion of official Ask  The President hashtag:
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