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Media project launches ‘Ask the President’

- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

A group of media outlets launched "Ask the President" on Thursday to allow citizens to devise questions for President Obama online through an open-source process akin to what the White House has used so successfully.

The project - a collaboration between the Nation, The Washington Times and Personal Democracy Forum - solicits readers' questions for Mr. Obama, allows readers to vote on the queries, and then plans to present the top-rated questions to the president.

Mr. Obama has used the Internet to solicit donations and voter input, as well as speak directly to the nation via online video messages, with wild success. Project founders said they seek to capitalize on that ethic of transparency and community.

"Barack Obama pledged the most open, interactive government in history ... In that spirit, this project aims to ensure that participatory journalism has a place in the White House," said Ari Melber, Net Movement correspondent for the Nation and a creator of Ask the President.

One citizen sparked one of the strongest story lines of the 2008 presidential race after he asked the candidates, via an online video during a CNN/YouTube debate, whether they would sit down and talk with leaders from Iran, Syria, Cuba and North Korea.

“We hope this project can engage citizens in meaningful, detailed debates and advance the kind of questions that are important for readers, journalists and politicians alike,” said Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, managing editor-digital of The Times.