Transparency: Remaining unbiased

February 3, 2009

At White House.gov, Obama puts in writing one of his most repeated promises on this past campaign trail, “My Administration will take appropriate action, consistent with law and policy, to disclose information rapidly in forms that the public can readily find and use.” Although there is still a great deal of obstacles that must be overcome to logistically disseminate this information to the public, there are clear problems of how this transparency will remain unbiased.

As Bill Kovach, the chairman of the Committee of Concerned Journalists states, “They’re beginning to create their own journalism, their own description of events of the day, but it’s not an independent voice making that description…” There are no ways to check if government issued reports through a vehicle such as whitehouse.gov are unbiased, or instead a form of government propaganda. It seems even the intention of having a transparent government does not appear to be conducive to having an unbiased approach.

In the article, “Melding Obama’s Web to a YouTube Presidency” Obama’s campaign manager David Plouffe expresses the Administration’s desire to build public opinion using the same infrastructure that got him elected. The ability to build public opinion through transparent government is certainly one way to do that. Although there are a many ways that I believe the Obama Administration can use technology to make government transparent, there are three ways I would like to briefly discuss. All of which have problems attached to them.

1) The Administration could put out weekly reports (similar to Obama’s weekly youtube addresses) on the events that took place in the federal government. However, the administration could choose to leave out certain information that does not support their administration, while only presenting one side of an argument to the public.

2) Create a forum for every issue the Obama Administration disseminates to allow either disagreement or discussion. Another form of disagreement that could take place is with every issue presented by the Administration having a response from the republican side of the issue. Nevertheless, this may become less useful for disseminating information, and instead a forum that is used to spin partisan debates.

3) Another attempt to remain unbiased is to report only data. For instance, easy explanations of bills on the floor, or simple data sets put together by the government. Moreover, the administration could try to report information through the use of transcripts of all congressional as well as executive hearings and meetings. However, this may cause all governmental proceedings to be under such scrutiny that politicians do not say or stand up for what they really think is right for fear of how MSM and other forms of media will spin their statements.

What ways do you see the Obama Administration distributing information to the public? Is there any way to ensure objectiveness?

– Aaron

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