By Emily Pride
David Almacy, a former White House Communication staffer, says, “Media matters.”
Almacy, who served as White House e-communications director under
President George W. Bush, said he believes the relationship between the White House and the Press is key to ensuring the safety and security of the country. The media has the power to shape the actions of our government and to shape the narrative of what is going on in our country. His work in the Bush administration centered on bringing the White House into the digital era to partner with the continuation of traditional media strategy. Almacy spoke with the Fleischaker/Greene Scholars during their trip to Washington, D.C., in October about the how the evolution of technology affected public communication from the White House and its relationship with the press.
He describes this transition in a follow-up email saying,
“There’s no question that the introduction of new devices combined with the rise of social media and ubiquitous access to the Internet makes it easier than ever for users to voice their opinion or capture and share content on the fly. Social media use in digital marketing both for consumers and voters will only increase in the coming years. However, mainstream media still continues to play an important role in shaping the conversation through various outlets including television, radio, print and online news coverage.”
Following his graduation from Widener University in 1992, Almacy began his career by working in broadcast services for the Republican National Committee, followed by time in affiliate relations for C-SPAN and government affairs for GovTech Solutions. He later served as a presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of Education from 2002 to 2005, before beginning his time in the Executive Office of the President. He served in the role of White House Internet & E-Communications Director from 2005 to 2007. Since his time at the White House, he has served as Vice President of Digital Strategy for Waggener Edstrom; Senior Vice President of Edelman; partner at Engage, LLC, a digital communication agency based in Alexandria, Virginia; John Kasich campaign adviser; and an adjunct professor at Gerorgetown University teaching courses in Digital Communication Strategy.
The first president to have an official White House website was President Bill Clinton in 1995. Almacy calls Clinton the “first Internet president” since he put up the first whitehouse.gov website, Bush the “first digital president” due to his use of regular online content, and Obama the “first social media president.” (Fleischaker/Greene Scholar Adam Sims argues this title would be better for Twitter-happy President Donald Trump.)
One of Almacy’s main initiatives as communication director was working on further developing the capability and usability of the White House website, in addition to other digital initiatives. He believed he succeeded in his role as e-communications director, saying:
“With a strong team and a clear vision for President Bush’s digital operation, both day-to-day and long term, we were able to achieve some pretty amazing things during my tenure and set the precedent for future administrations. We were fortunate to have such a great team, specifically in the Office of Media Affairs and the technical, creative, and web development staff in the Office of Administration who supported WhiteHouse.gov.”
One example of how he believes the White House used digital media effectively to assist the American public was how the White House website was used to assist in recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina. Almacy described the overwhelming number of emails sent to the White House website following the 2005 hurricane; Almacy and his staff personally went through the thousands of emails of concern asking for help and then forwarded them toward the appropriate government resources. Their work helped to in real-time coordinate rescue efforts on the ground following Katrina, he said.
A second, and perhaps more well-known, example was the “Barney Cam.” After George W. Bush took office, the website adapted from previous iteration, adding video like the “Barney Cam” and an “Ask the White House” feature. The Barney Cam was a series of holiday videos at the Bush White House featuring Bush’s pets Barney and Miss Beazley. These videos offered a “dog’s eye” view of life inside the White House. This worked in favor of the president by showing a more fun and light-hearted side of the White House.
Of his time at the White House, Almacy said:
“The opportunity to walk through those gates every day to serve the the American people was an honor and a privilege. Every day was unique, both challenging and rewarding all at the same time.”
Almacy highlighted the importance of a good working relationship between the media and the White House. This relationship is one which has the ability to improve the lives of the American public. The relationship between the two can allow the the administration to serve in the best interests of its citizens.