President Joe Biden is bringing back the weekly presidential radio address, but this time around, it’ll be through a podcast, not a Franklin Delano Roosevelt-style fireside chat.
According to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, the address will take on a “variety of forms. Some installments will have Biden speaking directly to the people, but others will pair him with everyday Americans and other guests, reports The New York Times.
This weekend’s installment will feature Biden speaking in a remote conversation with California resident Michele Voelkert, who was laid off from a San Francisco-based clothing company last year, in the early days of the pandemic.
Biden and Voelkert, 47, discuss her issues with securing unemployment benefits, finding new employment, and her daughter’s virtual schooling.
The segment will be published Saturday on the White House’s YouTube page and through other social media platforms. Volkert’s husband, Joshua, a videographer, allowed for high-quality footage from her side of the conversation.
“It’s a digital-forward way of thinking about it,” Rob Flaherty, the White House director of digital strategy, said. “We’re meeting people on platforms and formats that they watch, in places where they are.”
But while the talks are being billed as a return to the radio address, they most likely will be hard to find on the radio itself.
Past efforts to bring back the weekly chats have also not fared well. Former President Barack Obama recorded an installment for YouTube almost every Friday, but the distribution of the addresses eventually dropped.
Further, ex-President Donald Trump, used the weekly address when he first took office, but it disappeared in 2017, and then-Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said it “wasn’t being used to its full potential.”
Other presidents have tried using the airwaves to connect with the public, including in 1977, when then-President Jimmy Carter tried a “Dial-a-President” national call-in show where he took questions. However, Carter’s efforts were ridiculed on Saturday Night Live with Dan Aykroyd playing him, and presidential historian Douglas Brinkley said the talks “diminished him.”
However, late President Ronald Reagan had good success with his radio addresses in the 1980s, His successor, President George H.W. Bush, abandoned the addresses, but they came back under presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama.
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