Obama staff figures out the computer system

The White House press operation is up and running -- for the most part.

By Mike Madden

Published January 21, 2009 3:50PM (EST)

The tech-savvy Obama campaign seems to have escaped the risk of becoming the Obama White House run by your elderly relatives who can't figure out how to program the VCR, much less this newfangled "e-mail."

Early reports out of the White House yesterday said staff was still figuring out how to log on to computers, send e-mail, etc. Transition aides had warned reporters on Monday that, come Tuesday, they might not be able to communicate -- and they set up special temporary Gmail accounts to reach them. (Though it wasn't even clear that they'd be able to access Gmail from their new computers; Politico reported Monday that instant-messaging, including Google Talk, would not be allowed from the West Wing.)

There was an unusual radio silence for most of Tuesday from the Obama shop, but by this morning, they had evidently figured out how to use the White House listservs to send out press releases from an account that used to be controlled by the Bush folks -- "White House Press Office" -- complete with a whitehouse.gov e-mail address. (It does seem to be coming from a different address than the one the Bush White House used, though.) The first item that moved on the general press list? A transcript of an interview by ABC's Robin Roberts at last night's "Neighborhood Ball."

It's a start, at least.

Update: A White House aide reports things are actually a little more complicated than they look to the outside world. This relatively senior aide has no computer, no phone, no Internet and no e-mail, except by BlackBerry. It's like some horrible new reality TV show for communications staffers (admittedly, not a concept that's quite ready for prime time) -- "On tonight's episode of '1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,' the press shop deals with a new twist. When you have no way of reaching the outside world ... can you still communicate your message?"

Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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