Brookings Institution Report, Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century

I typically don’t post much on my work, but expect that to change as I get more involved in public diplomacy and social media.

Today I attended the launch for Brookings Institution‘s report Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st Century (full report, PDF). I’ve yet to read the report and others are probably better suited to critique it than me, so I will give a brief overview of the proposal and then focus on summarizing the panel discussion.

Report Proposals

Voices of America: U.S. Public Diplomacy for the 21st CenturyAs most of the recent reports have argued, the United States government needs a coordinated public diplomacy plan that includes all agencies who are participating in this type of engagement. This is clear for a variety of reasons and pretty much universally accepted.

What’s unique about the Brookings report is the proposal to create a new independent, non-profit, organization, similar to RAND or the British Council, which would work in service of U.S. public diplomacy efforts. Importantly, existing responsibility for public diplomacy in the U.S. government would remain unchanged. This is a key distinction, since other reports (such as this one from Heritage) have suggested consolidating all public diplomacy and strategic communication activities in a new agency (such as a reconstituted USIA).

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The 2008 Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Corvette C6R of GM Racing is overtaken by the LMP2 Acura ARX-01b of De Farran Motorsports

Coming out of turn 6, the Corvette C6R of GM Racing is overtaken by the LMP2 Acura ARX-01b of De Farran Motorsports. The Corvette would later run into mechanical trouble and finish several laps behind their #3 Corvette teammates.

This past weekend, I attended the 11th annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. This was the penultimate race of the American Le Mans (ALMS) season and the season’s second endurance race, clocking in at 10 hours (or 1,000 miles). While I am a Formula One fan at heart, ALMS is great for the looser atmosphere and greater public access to pit lanes, garages drivers and crew, and, of course, the cars. This was the first auto race I’ve been to, and I was not disappointed.

With perfect weather, a strong field of competitors (including the evenly matched challengers of Audi and Peugeot for LMP1 victory), and a qualifying session which smashed the record books, the race to the finish of the 11th Petit Le Mans was sure to be exciting. And exciting it was. Not only was it the longest Petit Le Mans in history, it also saw one of the closest margins of victory.

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Why we know less than ever about the world (Alisa Miller, from Ted Talks)

Following up on my earlier post on the death of the foreign desk is this fascinating presentation by Alisa Miller, head of Public Radio International. She focuses on why the United States’ news media is showing even less about the world than ever – despite everyone professing to wanting to know more.

The most arresting fact? In US news coverage for February 2007, one story eclipsed news reports of all countries except Iraq: the death of Anna Nicole Smith. This was the same month that the IPCC released a report saying climate change is unequivocal and caused by human activity, Iran continued its nuclear enrichment program, North Korea decided to dismantle its nuclear facilities, and unrest was unabated in Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Somalia, Thailand, throughout Africa and in many other counties.

A few other important points:

  • In the past few years, news networks have reduced the number of their foreign bureaus by 50%.
  • There are almost no network news bureaus in all of Africa, India or South America.

Pink News also has an interesting interview with Miller, where she discusses PRI’s challenges and recent successes.

Death, and Digital Rebirth, of the Foreign Desk

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.

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