Thursday, February 19, 2009

Watching #Obamawa

Today, POTUS Barack Obama made his first foreign visit of the presidency to our wonderful northern country.

As Canada hosted #Obamawa - a Twitter term coined by the Ottawa Citizen and that I still don't completely understand - I decided to watch how people were watching the event.

So I set myself up with CBC Newsworld, the live camera feed, a tweet grid with the #Obamawa and #CBC search terms, and, of course, my TwitterFox running at full capacity.

And wow! What a science experiment!

It was so interesting to see people react, not only to what was going on in Ottawa, but to CBC's coverage of it. For example, when CBC's Rosemary Barton squealed on live TV that she'd seen Obama, the tweets came rushing in. Some people thought it was unprofessional and made comments like

@photofour: Prez Obama in Canada...waiting to see how many CBC reporters faint...
CBC broadcasters, professional journalist & newsreader, descend into a flurry of giggling and awkwardness. #obamawa

While others, like myself, thought it was a great moment of transparency, and exactly what live TV is all about... It showed viewers that yes, reporters are human beings too, and it's not always easy to be objective.

Another great moment? The interviews on the Hill. CBC's Susan Bonner was sort of put on the spot to help fill while Obama and Harper were meeting... and was confronted with loads of people looking for their 15 minutes of fame. Sometimes, it went really well, but at other times, well, not so much. Here are some of the reactions I saw to that:

@sushiboy21: CBC seems unaware that black people can actually be born and live in Ottawa. #obamawa
@MizJJ: I love how CBC is trying to find any and every black person to talk too. Did she just ask a black boy if he was Canadian?!? #obamawa
@idarknight: #obamawa Senior on CBC - "I saw a man who will put the world right" - kids: he's inspiring - that is a leader for you, regardless of state
@pmikeyreid: Best answer to the "What brought you here to see Obama Today?" question: A Car. - A couple from Chicago on CBC
@JordanCournoyea: Wow CBC interviewing people at Parliment is a train wreck
@CraigSilverman: CBC interviews with the crowd were a bit messy but I found myself smiling the entire time. It shouldn't seem scripted. #obamawa

Some of the tweets show how despite living in a world of 24h news and live streaming events, a lot of people still don't understand how it works "in real life". A reporter MUST look for the story, and when there's no time for pre-interviews or a pre-screening process, it's tough to make sure you get good content on the air. My take? It was a painful situation to be in, and she handled it really well. BUT, I totally would have had an intern around to help screen candidates.

Another golden moment? The lunch menu incident. This really got the tweeters going. While Harper and Obama were meeting - and CBC was waiting for the 20 second photo op though the special programming should have been off air already - Peter Mansbridge was forced to fill. Because interviews on the Hill are nice and all, but it gets old. Fast. Here's how Twitter reacted to that, starting with my tweets:

@starshine_diva: Love that Mansbridge puts his glasses on to read the menu... and then complains about filling air time with it. LOL!! @cbcnews #Obamawa
@starshine_diva: Mansbridge looks like he can't believe he's trying to fill with lunch menus. Ah, 24h news. Love it. #Obamawa @cbcnews

Meanwhile, around the tweet-o-sphere:

@saleemkhan: 1207ET "I can't believe I'm reading all this but you know, we do have to fill time." - CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge reading #Obama lunch menu
@pferguson: I love how Mansbridge on CBC laughs at himself and the situation that he "has to fill time" when he discusses the lunch menu #obamawa
CdnFoodieGirl: Listening to the menu for Obama's lunch in Ottawa today. It's funny to hear Peter Mansbridge read from a menu. #obamawa
@seven24: Peter Mansbridge (@cbcnews) is reading the lunch menu. Now Keith Boag is analyzing the ingredients. I think its lunch time. #obamawa

Of course, this excercise was not only interesting to me from the social media perspective, but from the production perspective, and my tweet stream definitely shows that. What I loved about this experience was seeing people react to what I was seeing - and noting what made them tick. What they loved, what they laughed at, and what discouraged them. And seeing it all in real time was a wonderful comment on society, and a great way to share this historic event with a community, albeit a bunch of people online whom I don't really know and probably never will.

And on that note, here are some random tweets I really enjoyed from the day:

@jpappone: #obamawa Watching CBC TV's coverage of Obama's visit, I am left wondering: Newspapers really think they need to compete with this idiocy?
@geenalyn: Obama is visiting Canada today, CBC kids programs have been interrupted for the coverage. My son, age 4 just said "there's barack obama"
@blankwhitewall: The people on the CBC are gushing over Obama like old ladies at a Clay Aiken concert. Calm down Canada calm down. He's gonna think ur uncool
@eleckie: I love CBC's Obama news coverage - "this just in, nothing new has happened for 20 live minutes."
@gilliebee: I was hoping that Harper would turn on the charm. Maybe that switch is broken? #obamawa

On CBC vs CTV vs CNN:

@datachick: How important is #obamawa to US? @CNN is covering Clinton's arrival in Seoul instead.
#obamawa - CBC Newsworld: good coverage capturing the excitement, live hits from the hill and stuff. _boo_CTV, bunch of talking heads
fail CTV #obamawa coverage requires me to install Silverlight. Hello do you do

Bonus? @cbcyourvoice picked up one of my tweets:

starshine_diva: I wonder what they do with the decoy limo when they reach their destination. How do you camouflage a limo and lookalike?


  1. Great post! Came by on a tweet from @mathewi, been following #obamawa all morning. I too found it a very human (i.e. ugly and lovely but ultimately genuine) way to experience the event as a part of a collective. Bonus, @CBCyourvoice picked up one of my tweets, too: "@cbcyourvoice RT @DaniGirl: I was there! Standing at Rideau&Colonel By, saw motorcade go by. Crowd cheered and waved. Was vry exciting! #obamawa"

    Hoping for another peek at the motorcade on the way home tonight!

  2. Awesome!!!

    Very cool that you actually took the time to tweet and share your experience of being there! :)