The revolution in American political discourse continues tonight with President Barack Obama’s 4th State of the Union Address. Thanks to Twitter, Google Hangouts, and live streaming video events average American citizens can engage in the political discussion just as actively as any political pundit on a major broadcast news network.
First a little history of the relationship between the State of the Union Address and the media, and then a run down of all of the ways you can engage in tonight’s event.
Doug Bernard, in his article “A Virtual State of the Union,” provides a historical perspective of the State of the Union Address:
The State of the Union speech is more tradition than constitutional requirement, becoming in the 20th Century a major media event and the closest thing the US has to monarchical pomp and ceremony. As media changed, so did the speech. For most of American history, the speech wasn’t even that, but rather just a written message from the President and delivered to Congress to be read into the record.
1923 brought the first speech broadcast via radio (President Calvin Coolidge’s first) and 1947 the first seen on television (President Harry Truman’s second.) As broadcast coverage increased, so did the speech itself, growing longer and, in 1965, moving to prime time. (George Washington’s first speech was less than 10 minutes long, while President Bill Clinton’s final address clocked in at one hour and 49 minutes.)
The digital revolution continues that evolution. In 2002, President George W. Bush’s first SOTU address, coming just four months after the terror attacks of Sept. 11th, was webcast live for the first time. That was two years before Facebook, four years before Twitter and five years before the first iPhone. Now, in the second decade of the 21st Century, the State of the Union has become a social media event: a portable, borderless political debate.
On February 5th, the White House announced the first event of this term in its ongoing White House Social program would be the State of the Union. The White House will be streaming an enhanced version of the speech on WhiteHouse.gov that features graphics, data and charts that help explain policies and the issues. You can also tune in live on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and through the White House mobile apps.
The League of Young Voters is hosting events and discussions throughout the day today on UStream called #BarackTalk. The events will start with a series of panel discussions taking place at the popular DC eatery “Busboys And Poets” and, following that, a live SOTU watch party.
Bing will be providing an opportunity for people to watch and react to the President’s address in real time. Their interactive page includes Twitter feeds from political experts and news sources, a real time poll with hashtags for carrying the conversation over to Twitter, and during the address a live video feed from the floor of the House chambers. This coverage can be followed by clicking over to the Bing Politics page.
NBC has also set up a full spate of opportunities to watch and engage tonight. As always, complete coverage and analysis of President Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress on Feb. 12 will start at 9 p.m. ET, and will include the Republican response from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) immediately after. NBC News will also include some of the best #NBCPolitics tweets on-air during the web-only pre-show and following President Obama’s speech. If you want alternatives to sitting in front of the TV, NBC offers several live streaming options. NBCNews.com and the NBC Politics app (available on the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch) will live stream the entire State of the Union, while Facebook users can turn to NBC News and NBC Politics for a live stream of State of the Union coverage, along with highlights, polls, and photos.
Once you’ve consumed all of the media of your choice tonight, President Obama is set to host a Google+ Hangout on Thursday afternoon to further the discussion of his agenda for this year. Obama’s Google+ Hangout happen Thursday at 4:50 p.m. ET. People can submit or vote on questions that they want addressed by the President until 11:59 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Check out this video for more information.