President Obama Uses New Media to Address the Nation
American presidents have used the weekly address to exercise and sustain their rhetorical power in different ways. While ritual rhetorical acts, such as inaugural addresses and state of the unions, are vital to the institutional presidency, there has been little scholarly focus on the sustaining functions of routine communications, particularly the weekly presidential address.
As a weekly routine for a president, these addresses mark important achievements and setbacks while illustrating the short amount of time with which a president has to govern. This temporality is further emphasized with the digital use of the weekly address in the Obama administration. The visual functions of the address place prominent emphases on executive power based on the web layout and imagery crafted.
Analyzing the online layout of the weekly address, several characteristics strengthen the temporal dynamic. The White House website prominently displays “Your Weekly Address” for several days on the front page of the website and is included with several other top stories in a scrolling message box. Previous addresses can be accessed by using the “Briefing Room” button. The inclusion of past and present addresses in one location illustrates the temporal nature of the president’s weekly remarks and serves as a digital log of the president’s positions, accomplishments, and official activities.
The numerous digital platforms President Obama has utilized for outreach represent a conscious effort to symbolically project presidential power through image management. Using stage crafting strategies, the president gives his speeches each week in different areas of the White House or around the country when addressing citizens domestically. He is flanked by an American flag and a flag with the presidential seal. A WhiteHouse.gov logo appears in the upper right corner of the screen. The formal presidential image is created, sustaining the institution of the presidency and Obama’s authority as part of a mediated log. Obama becomes ubiquitous - able to be transferred across social networking platforms or into an e-news article.
Weekly Address, 10/3/09
President Obama’s use of the weekly address genre meets the needs of the news media for the image or sound bite on the weekends while providing citizens the opportunity to view the president on a regular basis. The powerful visuals created by the trappings of the presidency sustain the institutional image, all while adapting to an increasingly portable, fragmented environment for information. In the process, the president becomes an everywhere force in political and nonpolitical life.
Weekly Address, 7/16/11
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