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White House email system implodes - people have to actually talk

By Jimmy Orr / January 27, 2009

Jake Turcotte

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Flintstones, meet the Flintstones.

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White House staffers who have complained loudly about the technological limits of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. even went further back in time yesterday with a collapse of the White House email system.

For almost 24 hours, email to and from the White House was stopped. BlackBerrys were dead (except Brickbreaker, of course). Could the administration function?

"Our apologies if you've e-mailed any of us in the last two-and-a-half hours. Our e-mail system is not working so well. So our apologies on that, and we'll endeavor to get you information from earlier in the day, hopefully in a little bit more of a timely manner, if we can get the e-mail to work," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs yesterday unaware that the technogical blackout would last for many more hours.

Stone age

So did panic ensue?

Well, people did have to talk to each other. Face to face.

One press assistant in the White House told the Washington Post that things were so desperate that he actually had to meet people in person.

It gets worse. Yesterday's executive orders signed by the president? Passed out on paper. Things called photocopiers were used. Those pink "While you were out" notes appeared on desks.

Apparently the email system came back to life this morning.

White House blog. Eh....

The White House wasn't affected, but the touted blog is still more of an archive right now with just statements and briefings.

Will the Obama White House really have a conversational, casual, let-it-all-hang-out blog? How conversational can they get? How off-the-cuff can they go? Remember, it's President Obama's message. He's the newsmaker.

The Bush White House dealt with a similar set of issues. It created "Ask the White House" and "White House Interactive," which allowed staffers to answer questions from the public in a more conversational setting.

Webcam

What may work for the Obama administration is to do exactly what campaign manager David Plouffe did during the campaign: video messages from the webcam.

They were conversational, not overly scripted, not overly produced and provided visitors with an inside as to what was happening on the campaign.

It could be like the NFL Network where Mike Pereira, the NFL's Vice President of Officiating, goes on the air to discuss key calls his refs made earlier in the week.

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