Amy Goodman called it the Access of Evil…When pushed about the timidity of their questions to people in power, reporters will often–even more timidly–squeak something about their fear of losing access to their subjects.

Access they say, is what  keeps them in a position to pose questions, score interviews, and keep their bosses happy. It can be an overrated thing.  Segregation, for example, didn’t stop the country’s best black reporters from covering Southern government  in the civil rights struggle. Nonetheless, it’s not very democratic what happens in the East Room press conference room.  The White House Controls who attends and who gets called on as White House press corps veteran Helen Thomas discovered to her credit when she was banished to the back of the room after raising prickly questions of the Bush Administration.

President Obama has pledged more open interactive government. After the November election, his team invited citizens to submit and vote on questions at, pledging that his staff would answer. About 120,000 people wrote more than 86,000 original questions, and millions of votes were cast.  Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, did answer several of the citizen questions, but he also ignored the one that drew the most support, about investigating torture and surveillance abuse.

Soon afterward, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos pressed Obama to address the unanswered question in an interview, citing its strong public support. After the same question was asked by a Huffington Post reporter at Obama’s first press conference, the citizen question project suddenly disappeared at the website.

Well now some independent media giving the president another chance. The Nation magazine is teaming up with others to gather questions from you, the public. "Ask the President"  uses an interactive portal that enables people to write in questions or submit them as videos. They’ll be voted on and posed by a reporter in that East Room press conference, assuming that reporter gets called on.

We’ll have more information on our site. And we look forward to playing your questions here.

We also look forward to the answers. This assumes, of course, that President Obama agrees to participate. I guess that’s the first question.

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders

Laura Flanders, author, and host of RadioNation on Air America Radio, has built a reputation for courageous investigative journalism coupled with compassion and a sense of humor. In writing her last book, Blue Grit, she traveled the country reporting on grassroots success stories and broadcast live to over 150 radio stations from community centers in places including Helena, Salt Lake City, New Orleans, Miami, Las Vegas, and Milwaukee. In her television appearances (Lou Dobbs, Larry King Live,) on radio and in her many books (including Bushwomen: Tales of a Cynical Species) and articles (The Nation and others,) Flanders calls for a new politics of fairness, equality and citizen action. Articulating the human dimension of American communities in trouble, her programs have become destinations for those seeking the skills and the will to make a difference. Flanders is a regular contributor to the Nation Magazine and CNN. Before joining Air America, where she was part of the original lineup, and hosted “The Laura Flanders Show” for three years, Flanders was the founding host of the award-winning “Your Call” weekday mornings on public radio, KALW in the Bay Area and CounterSpin, the radio show of the mediawatch group, FAIR.