Engaging openly with citizens (is not that hard)

The gentleman above is Robert Gibbs, White House Press Secretary. In the video you can see him trying out a new trick: citizens ask him questions through Twitte (use hashtag #1q) and he answers some of them in a YouTube video. The idea was launched, in a very relaxed style (“Something new: You take first crack.”), from Gibbs’s Twitter account; the video was clearly shot with his computer’s webcam rather than by calling in the White House’s cameramen with HD equipment.

So, what happened in the face of so much openness? Not much, apparently. People asked questions, as is their right. The Press Secretary answered, as is his job. The reactions to the initiative seem in general very positive. One of the comments to the video was left by an unemployed man who can’t find a job. He is critical of NAFTA, but this does not prevent him writing a courteous comment and wishing his President a nice and fruitful journey to India. We now have substantial evidence that open engagement with the citizenry does not per se lead to disorderly or unconstructive behavior. If you are an elected official or a civil servant, I think I can safely recommend you relax: if you feel the need for more transparency or openness, just get out there and go for it. You won’t get hurt: quite the contrary, you will build trust.

(hat tip: Luca Perugini)

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