Public Media Camp: Hubs and Spokes and a Look at Measurement

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Recently I had the pleasure to participate in the Public Media Camp, an unconference focused on strengthening local and national public broadcasting. A good portion of the discussion focused on the disruptive and new opportunities being presented by Internet-based dissemination and social media.

Of Hubs and Spokes

While the focus on social media related well to my work in public diplomacy, the very structure of public media actually seems quite similar to the hub and spoke model of the central State Department in Washington and the various embassies, consulates and missions scattered around the world. As with public broadcasting, content is produced and disseminated in Washington and the very diverse missions overseas. Just as NPR or PBS in Washington balances the needs of their direct national audience with the needs of their affiliate stations, the State Department also has to support an international audience for its properties while meeting overseas mission needs.

Additionally, most public media outlets focus more on informing audiences and social change than increasing profits. Public diplomacy has similar goals: changing perceptions about the United States’ and its policies and creating a better environment for U.S. goals, such as democratization, improving religious freedoms and so on. Without profits as a baseline metric, both organizations aim for more intangible goals, such as those elucidated above. This makes measurement more challenging, with related knock-on effects.

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False Economy: A Surprising Economic History of the World

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False Economy, a new book by Financial Times writer Alan Beattie is both ambitious in its geographic and historical scope and quite reserved in drawing monumental judgments. Written for a the general reader, it is light on the economic theory and, when raised, explained clearly and succinctly.

The book’s basic treatise could be summarized thus: a nation’s economic fortunes rise or fall based on a wide variety of variables, typically due to domestic actions and often not those promoted by conventional wisdom. Over the course of the book, Beattie rejects many oft-blamed reasons for nations staying poor: religion, culture, natural resources and other such stalwarts. His reasoning is frequently compelling, rarely relying on abstract economic theory, instead elucidating his point through provocatively eye-opening examples.

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CSS drop-down menus: keeping the top level selected when hovering over a sub-menu, now in jQuery

Awhile back I wrote a JavaScript tutorial on how to keep the top level menu item selected when hovering over a drop down menu. Since then I’ve become a strong user and proponent of the JavaScript library jQuery. Not only is it easy to use, it also can help simplify your code-base very significantly. I’ve explained the updated code below. As you can see, it is much simpler.
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Public Diplomacy: From the Cold War to the Current Era

[image src=”” caption=”Visitors stream into the 1959 American National Exhibition. Moscow, USSR”]

Fifty years ago this month, on a muddy rain-soaked field in Moscow, a glittering pavilion quickly rose and a massive geodesic dome swiftly took shape. After only a few months of hectic construction the 1959 American National Exhibition opened to a curious Soviet public. The exhibit provided a unique window on American life to the millions of people who filed through the event over the next few weeks. The visitors saw examples of contemporary American life, from cars to homes to art. Young American guides, many barely out of college, led the curious Soviet public through both the general American story as well as their own deeply personal stories of life in the United States and, in many cases, how their immigrant families became American citizens.

[image src=”” caption=”Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev chats with a guide. Vice President Richard M. Nixon is at left.” align=”right”]

Soon after opening the 1959 Exhibition hosted Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, who toured the exhibits with then Vice President Richard Nixon. In what became a touchstone of the early Cold War, these cold warriors verbally sparred in the kitchen of the model American home. Both leaders argued for the merits of each country’s unique civil and economic models in front of an inquisitive crowd and, more importantly, rolling news cameras. The “Kitchen Debate” as it came to be known, informed the opinions of the two leaders and provided one of the most compelling unscripted moments of the long conflict.

Beyond the statecraft practiced in front of the cameras, public diplomacy was the chief goal of the Exhibition. The hope was greater understanding brought about by the cultural exchange would lessen tensions between the two great nations, turning enemies into, at least, adversaries. The personal stories of the guides were meant to show the diversity of the country while the various displays sought to highlight the strength of a capitalist economy.

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