Obama WH Website Averages a 'C+' from Web Experts Polled by National Journal

Remember how the media told us throughout 2008 that then-candidate Barack Obama had the most "tech-savvy" presidential campaign in U.S. history? And who can forget all the buzz during the transition period about how the president might have to part company with his Blackberry due to Secret Service security worries. To the media, Obama was light years ahead of any Republican when it came to the Web.

Well, with the 100-day mark right around the corner, it seems new media experts are only giving the 44th president a gentleman's C when it come to his communications shop's take on the WhiteHouse.gov Web site and the Obama administration's signature Recovery.gov Web site.

Reports the National Journal's David Herbert, the chief complaints seem to be that the Obama team sees the Web as a propaganda tool, not a way to genuinely engage citizens with their government and its elected chief executive (emphasis mine):

In a recent poll by NationalJournal.com, new media experts from across the political spectrum gave WhiteHouse.gov an average grade of C+. (See report card below.) Although they mostly saw the site as an improvement from the previous administration's, many noted that it remained a one-way forum and suggested it be opened to allow comments and make greater use of the "Open for Questions" feature.

"This occasional use of interactive tools" is impressive, says Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation. But "90 percent of the time the site is pretty straightforward, as it was under [George W.] Bush."

Recovery.gov fared even worse in our poll, averaging a C. The most common gripe about the site, which was designed to track stimulus projects, is that it's "the view from 30,000 feet," as Micah Sifry, co-founder and editor of the Personal Democracy Forum, put it. Without providing on-the-the ground details, Recovery.gov offers taxpayers few tools for staying on top of where their money is going, reviewers said.

Criticism of Obama's Web efforts began in the second week of his presidency, when he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act before it had been posted for review on WhiteHouse.gov. Since then, transparency advocates have hit Obama for not posting legislation on WhiteHouse.gov for five days of public commenting, as he promised to do on the campaign trail. And Recovery.gov has been attacked for its $84 million price tag. (Nick Schaper, the new media director for House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants more transparency on how that money is being spent.)

Of course, that wasn't the only problem with transparency the Obama White House had early on. As we at NewsBusters noted, in its first few weeks, the White House was lax in posting transcripts of White House press briefings, something that was regularly done by late afternoon the day of the respective press briefings under the Bush administration.

As far as the media's hype of Obama's tech savvy, I wouldn't expect the MSM to change the favored meme, even though practically every major TV news anchor and print journalist has a Twitter account while the Obama communications team has not set one up for the White House.

You can, however follow the two "teleprompters" that claim to have the POTUS's eye, @BOTeleprompter and @TeleprompterOne, as well NewsBusters @NewsBusters, The Media Research Center @TheMRC, and the MRC's CNSNews.com @CNS_News on Twitter.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is a writer living in New Carrollton, Md.