Map of the United statesHaving worked with a number of international and domestic organizations over the past several years, whose mandates may change considerably on the shifting sands of foreign relations, it has become abundantly clear that familiarity with global trends is a necessity in this increasingly interconnected world.

As we’ve seen with each political cycle here in the United States, ignorance of how the global system works – the ebb and flow of international trade, immigration, information and so on – can lead to naive perspectives on public policy. This allows politicians to more easily exploit popular misconceptions through dangerously populist rhetoric.

One need look no further than how current presidential candidates are blaming current United States’ economic problems on trade liberalization when much of the hard data suggests other causes. Rising income inequity, for example, is often driven by technological specialization rather than low-cost competition from overseas.* Or, more tangibly, one can look to the widespread misconception prior to the second gulf war that Saddam Hussein had collaborated with Al Qaeda. This false impression, either intentionally fostered, or (at the very least), not discounted by the current administration fostered a substantial portion of the public support for the Iraq invasion.

These are but two examples of how misconceptions of foreign influence and events have radically shaped the public and private landscape. There are, indeed, many more. That American news organizations are choosing this time to cut back on specialized in-depth foreign reporting stands in stark contrast to the increasingly intrinsic role external influences have on domestic policy and economics. The myopic perspective that this circumscribed view of the world is likely to create, can only be detrimental to the long-term health of the United States.

As such, I was very interested to hear, though an interview on NPR’s Fresh Air with noted foreign correspondent (formerly with the Boston Globe) Charles Sennott, of a plan to create a dedicated news outlet focused on international news reporting. Details are limited at this point, but there is certainly is a need (as elucidated above) for such attention. The new effort will be called Global News Enterprises and is planned to launch sometime in 2009. They have already signed up some notable managers and reporters.

While it may be difficult to replace the traditional reporting done by the main-stream media’s foreign desks, using the Web as a platform certainly brings some advantages. Beyond the obvious efficiencies (no expensive print runs, quicker response time and a cheaper infrastructure), a web-centric focus can better harness the fast and diffuse information flows – blogs, wikis, message boards and so on – that have come to typify news dissemination in the digital world. Greater leverage of multimedia can also tell and personalize the key stories influence American policy.

I look forward to seeing this new effort progress and I hope it will provide a new public information and discussion space that will address many of the most misunderstood – and critically important – foreign news issues of the day.

See: The United States and the World Economy: Foreign Economic Policy for the next Decade (Bergsten, Fred. 2005)

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