Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Why Obama’s Comment About Kanye is Actually Important

Summary: New media keeps gaining political relevancy! After President Obama commented on hip-hop artist Kanye West's recent interruption of Taylor Swift at the VMAs, WAYLA continues to show how new media sources can affect politics, positively and negatively, every day.

I have to admit, when I first saw the video of Hip Hop artist Kanye West interrupting teen Country star Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards (see below) I never expected it to find its way to this blog.

But today the blogosphere has been rapidly spreading the news about President Obama’s take on the incident. Apparently he was in an off-the-record discussion with a CNBC reporter when he called Kanye a “jackass” for his actions at the VMAs.

Not knowing the comments were off the record, ABC News reporter Terry Moran tweeted it with his own commentary: “Now THAT’s Presidential.”

After realizing it was off-the-record, Moran deleted the tweet. Yet the news was already out there and spread like an epidemic. ABC has since released a statement apologizing for Moran’s tweet to Politico.

Why on Earth is this important?

It’s hard to imagine that most Americans are actually going to care about Obama’s unofficial comment - after all, it’s a personal feeling that is probably already held (verbatim) by most Americans.

Here’s the take from Newsweek’s blog, “The Gaggle”:

“In a White House that is so very careful about staying on message, Obama’s Kanye commentary was perhaps the most filter-free moment we’ve seen in a while, and let's face it, the slip-up was pretty harmless. Why shouldn’t Obama be able to call out Kanye for acting like a jackass? Is there anyone who actually disagrees?”

But the story is still important - not so much because of what Obama said, but how his thoughts were leaked.

We’ve talked a lot about Twitter over the past few months. We talked about its role in the Iranian elections, how campaigns can use it effectively, and even did a case study on how it has affected this very blog.

We’ve also mentioned some of the more irresponsible and damaging tweets that have come to light in 2009. For example, how one Republican operative tweeted “JUST HEARD THAT OBAMA IS GOING TO IMPOSE A 40% TAX ON ASPIRIN BECAUSE IT’S WHITE AND IT WORKS,” around June.

But the Moran tweet raises a new interesting question about irresponsible tweets: what about journalists who cover politics? What can campaigns or public relations experts do when media professionals abuse (even accidently) new media?

I guess we’ll have to watch how White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs handles this story to find out.

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