Congress comes to YouTube

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Congressional leaders unveiled House and Senate YouTube channels on Monday in a bid to keep up with the incoming Obama administration's sophisticated use of the Internet to communicate with voters.

The new sites were rolled out in a one-minute, 43-second YouTube video announcement featuring separate appearances by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Republican Leader John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Not the typical YouTube fare

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The Congressional leaders’ video had a considerably more formal tone than the most viewed video on YouTube on Tuesday morning – a scatological cartoon about a mountain climber’s restroom woes produced by Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane.

Until now, individual members of Congress -- some 130 Representatives and 46 Senators -- had their own channels on the video sharing site, but there were no centralized YouTube locations featuring all members of either the House or the Senate.

One stop YouTube shopping for your member of Congress

The new pages -- one for the House and one for the Senate -- offer a map that allows voters to zero in on their home state and find their legislator’s YouTube channel.

"While we may not see eye to eye on everything, one thing we can agree on is the importance of utilizing technology to communicate with constituents," Speaker Peolosi said on the video.

Some members of Congress were early YouTube adopters. According to Pelosi’s office, the San Francisco Democrat was the first member of Congress to employ YouTube to communicate with voters in her high tech district.

"My colleagues and I are big fans of YouTube," said Minority Leader Boehner, whose office has posted 97 videos on YouTube.

Fireside chats for the digital age

But the Obama team has been the most aggressive and innovative user of the Internet for political purposes. The Obama campaign reportedly uploaded 1,800 videos that were viewed 110 million times. And Obama’s use of the web has continued since his election.

In November, the president-elect began recording his weekly radio address on video and posting it on www.change.gov, the presidential transition site. In essence, the videos have become fireside chats for the video age.

Last weekend, Christina Romer, the Chairman-designate of the Council of Economic Advisors, appeared in a nine minute video on YouTube about the job creation potential of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that the president-elect’s team is designing.  It went over the heads of the press, with a key official explaining the president-elect’s plans in a down to earth, conversational fashion.

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