In his tenure as White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs has expanded his role well beyond the podium. From blogging to twitter to video-chats, Gibbs has taken the position to a new level of communication in the Obama administration.
Gibbs started using the social network Twitter under the handle @PressSec last February and as of today's briefing has well over 130,000 followers. "I got on something like Twitter largely from watching you guys tweet while the President was standing right here," he told the White House Press Corps in Wednesday's briefing. Gibbs uses the service, which limits messages to 140 characters, to communicate at large with the public. "You can have a dialogue with people who are going about their daily lives who have questions for the administration about what it's doing," he says.
Gibbs developed a reoccurring video response to Twitter questions which the White House posts on their blog as well as youtube. Today he answered questions about leaving the White House but reassured his followers in a video that the open communication will continue after he steps down from the podium. "The twitter account of the press secretary, and things like first question will extend and continue well beyond my tenure here at the White House because we've learned over many years its important through social media and social networking to continue the dialogue that we've had and to bring you, citizens of this country, closer into the goings on and decisions that your government make."
But it hasn't been all advancements in technology and new media tools for Gibbs. Looking back on his two year stint as press secretary, Gibbs said he could have held more off-camera meetings with the press. "I think there's an ability to talk about things slightly differently without all these fancy lights," something his successor might want to take into account. Gibbs' last briefing won't occur until after the State of the Union later this month, and the administration will announce his replacement before he departs the White House. The short list of possible replacements include Gibbs' deputies, Bill Burton and Josh Earnest, the vice president's press secretary Jay Carney, and Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell.
No matter how the next press secretary embraces the job, access to members of the Obama administration and the President is essential. "It's important to be able to walk into his office and say, sir, I need to get your opinion on this," says Gibbs who has been working with President Obama since his run for senate. The outgoing press secretary is looking forward to some time off to recharge. He hasn't taken a vacation without his blackberry in almost 7 years. And without that hand held device, he'll have a break from the twittersphere as well.