– White House Beefs Up Online Rapid Response (Huffington Post, May 23, 2011):
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has created and staffed a new position tucked inside their communications shop for helping coordinate rapid response to unfavorable stories and fostering and improving relations with the progressive online community.
“This week, Jesse Lee will move from the new media department into a role in the communications department as Director of Progressive Media & Online Response,” read an internal memo from Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, provided to The Huffington Post. “For the last two years, Jesse has often worn two hats working in new media and serving as the White House’s liaison with the progressive media and online community. Starting this week, Jesse will take on the second role full time working on outreach, strategy and response.”
The post is a new one for this White House. Rapid response has been the purview of the Democratic National Committee (and will continue to be). Lee’s hire, however, suggests that a portion of it will now be handled from within the administration. It also signals that the White House will be adopting a more aggressive engagement in the online world in the months ahead.
Lee has played that role in the past, including writing a semi-infamous White House blog post that said Fox News’ Glenn Beck was lying about the administration on his show. His new gig comes with its own Twitter account, precisely for the purposes of disseminating push back.
An equally telling requirement of Lee’s new job, however, is that of crafting strategy for outreach to the progressive community. Lee has been tasked with that responsibility in his previous incarnations, both as a member of the DNC online team during the ’08 election and as a senior new media adviser with then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
His new post may require even more delicate hand-holding. Instead of managing the administration’s web presence, he will be pressing to make the administration more popular on the web. In that respect, his Twitter account could also become an interesting window into the status of the always emotional, occasional testy dance between progressives and the president.
Lee enjoys good relationships with much of the online community, but as a member of the administration for the past two years he has also had his moments of friction.