SOTU Going Viral?

The president’s annual State of the Union address has come and gone reaching audiences of 31.7 million.

Seems like a lot of people, right?

But it was the lowest showing of audiences since President Clinton’s SOTU in 2000.

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This year, the administration pushed for audiences on new platforms. The speech was streamed online at whitehouse.gov alongside coordinated digital content (like charts and graphs).

This effort to “step up their game” (direct quote from the White House) reached 1.2 million viewers.

But that’s not all. On Thursday (Jan. 22nd) the president sat down for live online interviews with (no, not Katie Couric or Brian Williams) three YouTube personalities.

Watch the promo here!

Let’s meet them, shall we?

GloZell Green: Most famous for her green lipstick and videos like “My Push Up Bra Will Help Me Get My Man” and her rendition of “The Cinnamon Challenge,” GloZell has over 3 million subscribers. She asked the president about cyber security, racial profiling, international relations and same-sex marriage. She left the president with gifts for the ladies in his life, including a tube of green lipstick for his “first wife.” Oops!

glozell

Bethany Mota: A 19-year-old fashion designer with 8 million subscribers, Bethany has appeared on “Dancing with the Stars” and “Project Runway.” Her video blogs include motivational anecdotes along with wardrobe and beauty tips. The teen has done well financially and was part of YouTube’s first advertising campaign. It is estimated that she rakes in around $40,000 a video. Bethany asked the president about affordable education, cyber bullying, the Boko Haram kidnapping in Nigeria, censorship in China and Russia and how to involve a younger generation in politics.

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Hank Green: With 2.4 million subscribers, Hank’s channel “The Vlogbrothers” focuses on technology and “nerd culture.” Hank asked the president about partisan issues, the forgotten middle-class, drones, marijuana and healthcare. He is promotes charitable organization on his channel such as the Project for Awesome.

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We know social media and the Internet in general have given the previously “voiceless” an outlet for expression. Technology has allowed the marketplace of ideas to grow exponentially.

It has also made everyone a journalist, leaving me to wonder why am I going to school to learn how to be a journalist when I can eat cinnamon in ridiculous amounts on YouTube and land an interview with the President of the United States?

Bitter, party of one.

It seems bizarre that these interviewers addressed some of the most important issues in our nation.

Beyond that, the interviewers did not challenge the president, merely allowed him to repeat  ideas from the SOTU (was this merely coincidence). A trained journalist could have introduced more conversation and sparked a public forum to discuss his ideas. The personalities also introduced some “fluff” into the program undermining the seriousness of these issues. It makes me wonder if this attempt to reach more people really just weakened the integrity of these topics.

However, I understand and respect the administrations goal of spreading the State of the Union and it’s main ideas to a larger, more diverse audience using these personalities. I appreciate that the “people’s voice” was articulated through these individuals and pleased with the ability the Internet gives us to share ideas and create a better society.

In the end, the program had good intentions, however, I feel as though the conversation could have been better with trained journalists asking the questions.

Perhaps I’ll start eating cereal out of a bathtub instead of going to class.

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