When Barack Obama promised the American people change, not that many imagined he meant change within and through media channels. But on February 9, 2009, Obama held his first press conference, and there were definitely hints of change in the proceedings.
Taking questions started out in the most traditional way possible. Obama called on 88-year-old dean of the White House press corps, Helen Thomas. A prominent and longstanding figure in the media world, Obama became the tenth U.S. president to field her questions. Obama quipped, “All right, Helen, this is my inaugural moment here,” thus acknowledging the very tradition which he was furthering. All business, Thomas asked a traditionally pointed question about Afghan safe havens for potential terrorists and the existence or nonexistence of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Still keeping within political tradition, Obama spoke without truly answering the question.
He didn’t break tradition until the next question, which was taken from Sam Stein of the Huffington Post, a news-centered blog and self-proclaimed internet newspaper. Stein asked a similarly pointed question regarding the potential prosecution of officials within the Bush administration, which Obama pointedly and elegantly sidestepped.
But it was the very fact that Stein and Thomas were placed on the same level. It was an acknowledgment that a blog can be a valid and trusted source of information, and taking the question from 26-year-old Stein was a big victory for proponents of a more internet-centered media scene.
Fielding Stein’s question takes on even more significance knowing that these reporters were selected ahead of time, and Stein beat out correspondents from traditional and established institutions such as The Wall Street Journal, Time, Newsweek, and The Chicago Tribune.