Appitude: The White House delivers the best, most biased State of the Union coverage anywhere

Virginia Heffernan is the national correspondent for Yahoo! News, covering culture and politics from a digital perspective. She wrote extensively on Internet culture during her eight years as a staff writer for The New York Times, and she has also worked at Harper’s, the New Yorker and Slate. Her book, “Magic and Loss: The Pleasures of the Internet,” is forthcoming from Simon & Schuster.

By Virginia Heffernan

As far as I can tell, there’s only one white guy milling around: Joe Biden. Oh and maybe Nick Jonas. Elsewhere, soulfully swaying and crooning in the White House are Sheryl Crow, Jamie Foxx, Jordin Sparks, Seal and Smokey Robinson.

And also Barack Obama, who before he delivered his first State of the Union speech of his second term on Tuesday night, appeared in a video with the music stars. It’s a mini-doc about the Motown celebration at the White House made by And it’s really good.

In preparation for the president’s speech, I watched it toe-tappingly on Tuesday, on my phone, using the White House app, which I have been avoiding for as long as I’ve known what an app is.

I will avoid the app no longer. The White House makes excellent video, and it’s time to face that the White House covers itself—when you count the all-important challenges of digital distribution and don’t care about favoritism, that old-media bogeyman—better than any journalist anywhere.

It turns out that the White House has marvelous access to the White House.

Tonight, in that tradition, for the State of the Union address, the White House itself is—on the Web and on the app—streaming “an enhanced version of the speech that features graphics, data and stats that highlight the issues the president is discussing.”

See what I mean? Why listen to Fox broadcasters carp—or MSNBC types fawn? Why read The New York Times tomorrow, or even Yahoo News?

Download the app and you can get the real story of the State of the Union address—from the White House itself!

It’s diabolically clever. The White House’s cameras are always on the star of the show, always with the best angle and lights. An enhancer developer dude is always standing by—not with makeup and lighting fills, but with dataviz materials to give the numbers behind Obama’s policies.

It makes you think you’d have to be a bonehead to listen to the networks or Twitter rant about how much gray is in the president’s hair or how often he doesn’t use the word “homeland” or “Tuscaloosa.” If you want the facts about the president’s plans, the White House app suggests, listen to the president’s own guys.

So I’ve been steadily pressing on with this well-wrought app. I’ve watched tons of video of the president today. I watched him pray to be a “man of valor” at the Medal of Honor ceremony, while his team is getting ready for the State of the Union.

That’s right; somehow they made this video, which shows young men getting the enhanced graphics together for another White House video event, this very day. And they produced it and got it on the app today.

All I can say is that Obama’s app, like his new media team, like his campaign, like his stealthy online presence, is aggressive but silky smooth. The Obama persona seeks world domination by scorched-earth seduction. He’s “a rough, tough lover with a sentimental plan,” as Aretha might have put it.

The White House app feels exactly like a White House app should. Informative, cool, a little whimsical, as when President Obama urges a science-fair winner to launch a marshmallow across the White House with his air cannon.

But it’s never desperate; it’s always professional; and it’s a little short on true interactivity. I’d say it was regal. But Obama is a president and democratically elected in a country with a nominally free press, so I would be uncomfortable comparing him to a king, even a kindly one.

  • Buffett says abstained from voting on Coca-Cola's compensation plan
    Buffett says abstained from voting on Coca-Cola's compensation plan

    (Reuters) - Warren Buffett, chairman of conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway , on Wednesday said he thinks Coca-Cola's controversial equity compensation plan was excessive, but that Berkshire Hathaway abstained in the shareholders vote. Earlier on Wednesday, Coca-Cola said 83 percent of shareholders approved the plan. Critics, most notably activist investor David Winters, said the plan would dilute the holdings of current shareholders too much. As of December 31, Berkshire owned 400 million shares of the company, just over 9 percent of the shares outstanding.

  • Valeant CEO 'disappointed' in Allergan poison pill: CNBC
    Valeant CEO 'disappointed' in Allergan poison pill: CNBC

    (Reuters) - The chief executive officer of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, which made a $47 billion unsolicited offer for competitor Allergan Inc on Tuesday, said during an interview on CNBC that he was "disappointed" with Allergan's so-called poison pill. Allergan on Tuesday night said its board of directors had adopted a one-year stockholder rights plan to give it more time to consider takeover proposals. The Valeant offer was made with Pershing Square Capital Management hedge fund, which built up a stake in the company. ...

  • Netflix plans to raise prices as U.S. streaming subscribers grow

    By Lisa Richwine LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Video streaming service Netflix Inc said it intends to raise the monthly subscription price for new customers by $1 or $2 a month to help the company buy more movies and TV shows and improve service for its 48 million global subscribers. Investors welcomed the announcement by Netflix, which had suffered from a consumer exodus and stock plunge after it announced an unpopular price increase in July 2011. Chief Executive Reed Hastings said Netflix had improved its selection of TV shows and movies and added original series like critically acclaimed Kevin Spacey thriller "House of Cards." With added revenue from higher prices, "we will be able to license much more content and deliver it in very high quality video," Hastings said on a webcast. Netflix has "room to raise prices," FBN Securities analyst Shebly Seyrafi said, because "they're still seeing a lot of demand" for the service.

  • U.S., euro zone activity up; China decline slows
    U.S., euro zone activity up; China decline slows

    By Rodrigo Campos and Jonathan Cable NEW YORK/LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. manufacturing sector expanded in April and the euro zone private sector started the second quarter on its strongest footing since 2011, while the pace of decline in Chinese factory activity slowed, surveys showed on Wednesday. Financial data firm Markit said its preliminary or "flash" U.S. Manufacturing Purchasing Managers Index dipped to 55.4 in April from 55.5 in March. Economists polled by Reuters expected a reading of 56.0. Earlier on Wednesday, data showed China's HSBC/Markit flash PMI for April rose to 48.3 from March's final reading of 48.0, but was still below the 50 line separating expansion from contraction.

  • Ahead of earnings, Caterpillar dealer data paints mixed picture
    Ahead of earnings, Caterpillar dealer data paints mixed picture

    (Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc released unaudited dealer sales data on Wednesday that showed a deepening deterioration in global demand for its mining equipment but a continued, albeit modest, rebound in sales of construction equipment as well as reciprocating and turbine engines. The world's largest maker of construction and mining equipment said global dealer sales of its yellow earth-moving machines fell 12 percent year-over-year in March, after falling 8 percent in both January and February. Equipment demand from mining customers was especially weak, Caterpillar said, with global dealer sales of those high-margin products tumbling 46 percent in March after falling 37 percent in both January and February. The downturn in demand for mining equipment was especially dramatic in the Asia-Pacific region, where dealer sales slumped 65 percent in March after falling 55 percent in February and 53 percent in January.

  • Teck Resources to cut five percent of its workforce as profit drops
    Teck Resources to cut five percent of its workforce as profit drops

    (Reuters) - Diversified Canadian miner Teck Resources Ltd said it would cut about 600 jobs, or 5 percent of its global workforce, after a sharp fall in earnings and revenue in the first quarter. Teck's net profit fell 78.4 percent to C$69 million ($62.62 million), or 12 Canadian cents per share, in the three months to March 31, from C$319 million, or 55 Canadian cents per share, a year earlier, mainly due to weak coal and copper prices. However, Teck said the outlook for zinc had brightened and it would restart its Pend Oreille zinc mine in Washington state. Teck said it would continue to delay the reopening of its Quintette coal mine in British Columbia, which was expected to produce 3-4 million metric tons of steelmaking coal annually, until market conditions improve.

  • Ford to name Fields as CEO soon, replacing Mulally: source
    Ford to name Fields as CEO soon, replacing Mulally: source

    By Ben Klayman DETROIT (Reuters) - Ford Motor Co will soon name Chief Operating Officer Mark Fields as successor to Chief Executive Alan Mulally, a person familiar with the plans said on Monday. Mulally, the 68-year-old executive credited with reviving Ford's fortunes since taking its helm in 2006, will step down before the end of the year, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing the company's plans. Fields, 53, was named COO in December 2012 and has been seen as Mulally's successor. Bloomberg earlier reported that Ford may make an announcement as early as May 1.

  • Caterpillar CEO Oberhelman's pay fell 33 percent in 2013: SEC filing

    (Reuters) - Caterpillar Inc Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Doug Oberhelman's compensation declined 33 percent last year because of the company's failure to meet promised profit and performance targets, according to a filing on Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Oberhelman still took home nearly $15 million in total compensation in 2013, according to the SEC filing, more than half of it in the form of stock options awards. ...

Follow Yahoo! News