Returning to the Mirror: Sharing the U.S. Elections with the World

Briefly, for the last several years, most definitely since 9/11 but arguably before, American Public Diplomacy has been rooted primarily in the “showcase” model that highlights only certain aspects of our “who we are.”  Falling on deaf ears as the pictures and words had little resonance with target audiences, it was a steep departure from our tried and tested model of a “mirror” that reflected who we are, warts and all (with some filtering of course) to foster understanding and build trust. 

Kim Andrew Elliott draws our attention to an example of returning to the mirror model.  From the “fact sheet” Sharing the U.S. Elections with the World: Public Diplomacy At Work:

On November 4, 2008, U.S. embassies and consulates will host thousands of guests and journalists to watch the election results on live television feeds from America. The U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Press Centers in Washington, D.C. and New York will hold similar gatherings for resident foreign media in the United States. These election night galas will cap months of intensive effort by the State Department’s Office of the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs to provide foreign journalists and audiences worldwide with an understanding of the complexity and significance of the 2008 American Elections.

More than 83 U.S. embassies
and consulates conducted
320 election-related programs
by June 2008.

Since the summer of 2007, the Bureaus of Public Affairs, Educational and Cultural Affairs, International Information Programs, as well as U.S. embassies worldwide, have worked in a variety of ways to illuminate the election process, including:

  • Foreign Journalist Reporting Trips to primary states, caucuses, debates, and conventions
  • Expert Briefings and Interviews for foreign journalists
  • Comprehensive assistance to foreign television crews
  • Election Study Tours in the United States for over 4,000 foreign government officials, academics, students and journalists
  • Speakers, over 200 to date, from academia, the media, think tanks and polling organizations have traveled abroad or done Digital Video Conferences, Telepress conferences, and Webchats
  • Articles, analyses, videos, podcasts, blogs, and interactive maps on expanded State Department international Website
  • Electronic Journals in English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, and Arabic

Um, Digital Video Conferences?  Is that compared to an analog video conference?  Was “digital” necessary?  And, what is a “telepress conferences”?  Who talks like that?  I’ll just assume these are key phrases for the target audience.