Why Obama did those interviews with YouTube stars

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President Obama's interviews with three YouTube stars did not look or sound like a typical presidential media session. And that was exactly the point.


In an interview with Vox published Monday, Obama described it as an effort to bypass traditional news outlets in favor of new media that reach different audiences.

"They're reaching viewers who don't want to be put in some particular camp," the president said of the YouTube stars.


Obama said that the "balkanization" of the media means that news consumers can choose not to expose themselves to different points of view.

"I'm not the first to observe this, but you've got the Fox News/Rush Limbaugh folks and then you've got the MSNBC folks and the—I don't know where Vox falls into that, but you guys are, I guess, for the brainiac-nerd types," Obama said. "But the point is that technology which brings the world to us also allows us to narrow our point of view. That's contributed to it."

Obama's January sit-downs with the YouTube personalities—Hank Green, GloZell Green, and Bethany Mota—were intended to get his message out to a millennial audience. He's continuing that effort through interviews with digital-only outlets such as Vox and BuzzFeed.

But some in the media expressed surprise that someone like GloZell Green, who has performed stunts such as eating cereal out of a bathtub full of milk, could score an interview with Obama.


Green's interview with Obama produced some bizarre moments, like when she said former Cuban president Fidel Castro "put the d—k in dictator" and referred to Michelle Obama as the president's "first wife."

Obama also offered a broad critique of the American news media. He said news outlets overstates the threat of terrorism in order to drive ratings. And that comes at the expense of ignoring other stories, like climate change.


"What's the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right?" he said."You show crime stories and you show fires, because that's what folks watch, and it's all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that's the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs."

He said the media generally is not interested in covering positive stories about increased farm yields or lower infant mortality rates.


"It's not a sexy story," Obama said. "And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it's a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis."

Jordan Fabian is Fusion's politics editor, writing about campaigns, Congress, immigration, and more. When he's not working, you can find him at the ice rink or at home with his wife, Melissa.

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