Event: The media and public diplomacy

The relationship between the media and public diplomacy today is one that is under-discussed. At one time, like foreign aid, U.S. media was integral to the practices that became known as public diplomacy. They were mutually dependent and supporting of each other. The Smith-Mundt Act was a means to extend U.S. media overseas, to broadcast where the American media could not. The Marshall Plan likewise continued this with the Informational Media Guarantee to further assist U.S. media products to reach overseas. Privatizing international broadcasting was to be done wherever and whenever possible according to the Act and public statements by the legislation's backers.

Is the media a global diplomat? Possibly, but are we talking about their communication of the United States to overseas audiences or how they report global affairs to the U.S. market? It would seem the latter is the focus of the USIP event below. Will they discuss how public education about the U.S. role, if not standing, in the world is incompletely reported? I’m sure Jim Glassman will note how little Americans and Congress actually know what is being done overseas in America’s name. The news, especially foreign coverage, used to be considered a public service but now it is a profit center and there’s very little profit in global affairs, especially when the real cost of maintaining foreign bureaus has increased. Noam Chomsky noted the retreat from international coverage twenty years ago. Today, reporters like Lara Logan and the groups like the Pew Center report this trend only gotten worse.

If it is media as global diplomat, as a means to engage non-US audiences, either within the U.S. or abroad (which itself a separate slate of questions), then is this the right panel to be answer the question?

The United States Institute of Peace is hosting a "leadership summit" titled Media as Global Diplomat. The discussion will be moderated by Ted Koppel and the discussants include

  • Under Secretary of State Jim Glassman
  • Mika Salmi, President of Global Digital Media of MTV Networks
  • Edward Djerejian, Co-Founder of the Baker Institute
  • Marvin Kalb, Edward R. Murrow Professor of Practice
  • Dennis Ross, Counselor and Ziegler Distinguished Fellow, Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Location: USIP Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Time: 9a - 3p

RSVP for the event here.

I hope the issue of American media's retreat from covering global affairs comes up as well as the issue that the Government can't tell the media everything it is doing overseas in America's name and with America's money.

I don't know if I'll be in town, but I'll be there if I am.

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