Obama's Jay Leno Visit Part of the Plan

President expands his media outreach to include late-night TV.

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Barack Obama's scheduled appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" tonight is part of his effort to expand the presidency's media outreach more widely than ever.

While other presidents limited themselves to more traditional approaches such as speeches, news conferences and interviews with the mainstream media, Obama has moved deep into new areas as he tries to communicate most effectively with the country.

His appearance on Leno's show will be his fourth since taking office and his sixth when his visits as a U.S. senator and presidential candidate are included. Until Obama took office, incumbent presidents didn't visit the late-night comedy shows, considering such appearances below the stature of the president.

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On Wednesday, he moves to another unusual venue when he appears on Zillow.com, an online real estate site, to talk about his housing agenda. Zillow announced that company CEO Spencer Rascoff will moderate the discussion and "the President will answer questions submitted by YOU, Zillow's users and [the] social media community. You could shape the discussion! Send your questions via video, Twitter or Facebook."

This Oct. 24, 2012, photo shows President Barack Obama with Jay Leno, right, during the taping of his appearance on NBC’s "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in Burbank, Calif. Obama will head to Burbank, Calif., to spread his economic message during an appearance on "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
This Oct. 24, 2012, photo shows President Barack Obama with Jay Leno, right, during the taping of his appearance on NBC’s "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," in Burbank, Calif. Obama will head to Burbank, Calif., to spread his economic message during an appearance on "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday, Aug. 6.

Last week, Obama appeared on Amazon's Kindle Singles, a web site geared to a younger audience. He has also appeared on other TV shows that other presidents have ignored while in office, such as "The View," and the shows of Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman and Jon Stewart.

Not that Obama is ignoring the more traditional venues. He recently granted an interview to the New York Times, gives frequent speeches across the nation, and holds periodic news conferences with the White House press corps.

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Obama advisers say he is going where the voters are. They argue that the nation's media scene is so fractured that a president needs to expand his media horizons in order to reach as many Americans as possible.

 

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.