News aggregators for Public Diplomacy / Strategic Communication

Several resources that comb news sites and blogs for what they believe is relevant information for those in public diplomacy, strategic communication, or related issues. With one exception, I did not include aggregators that broadcast individual articles via Twitter or blog posts.

  • RFE/RL’s The Rundown – An essential read broadly on communication and today and tomorrow’s hotspots. I get it emailed but I didn’t see a way to subscribe through email.
  • NightWatch – is an “executive intelligence recap” edited and annotated by John McCreary.
  • John Brown’s Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review – a broad (sometimes too broad) coverage of media, academic, and “plain” blog posts on public diplomacy and related matters. Too often the cited headline is the only part of an article that refers to public diplomacy. John is, however, the major aggregator of public diplomacy-related content.
  • Public Diplomacy in the News – result set is focused and includes more non-US examples.
  • Kim Andrew Elliott – required if you’re monitoring global communication.
  • COMOPS Monitor – is an automated aggregator for the “latest links from the blogosphere on Strategic Communication, Terrorism, & Public Diplomacy.”
  • Layalina Review – a bi-weekly update of public diplomacy news as it primarily relates to the Middle East.

Feel free to add to this list.

Public Diplomacy Alumni Association Announces Top Achievers

Public Diplomacy is too often misunderstood and more frequently ill-supported. Even within the State Department, stories abound of poor perceptions of the public diplomacy career track from other career tracks (unfortunately named “cones” in State). I particularly liked a recent anecdote where an Econ officer who took a public diplomacy job was disappointed to her he would have to actually work in his new assignment. His expectation of a free ride was the reason he chose a tour in the PD cone.

Stories like that make the recognition from the Public Diplomacy Alumni Association all the more important. Too often successful despite lack of resources and support, State Department public diplomacy officers do excel. Below is from the PDAA:

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Still unarmed in the struggle for minds and wills

Last month, The New York Times reported on the recruiting successes of Somali-based terrorist group Al Shabab. From Charges Detail Road to Terror for 20 in US by Andrea Elliott:

The case represents the largest group of American citizens suspected of joining an extremist movement affiliated with Al Qaeda, senior officials said. Many of the recruits had come to America as young refugees fleeing a brutal civil war, only to settle in a gang-ridden enclave of Minneapolis. …

The disclosures are the government’s first public account of a recruitment operation that it says has largely focused on Somali-American men from the Minneapolis area. Those young men included Shirwa Ahmed, 26, who carried out a suicide attack in northern Somalia in October 2008, becoming the first known American suicide bomber. Since then, at least five other recruits have been killed in Somalia, relatives and friends say, and four defendants have entered guilty pleas.

There is painfully little in the article about the information war and how the community gets their news from their homeland and home region.

See also:

  • Censoring the Voice of America

Global Information Environment

MountainRunner may not have a daily readership of thousands but it does reach a unique and critical audience. For every comment on the blog there are 3-5 offline (email) comments. This audience includes the media, such as Al Kamen and Spencer Ackerman, authors, such as Bing West (The Strongest Tribe and Tom Barnett (Great Powers), the Departments of State and Defense, and Congress (more citations are at the About page). This blog also has a global audience. The image below shows some of the visitors to the blog during November 2009.

MountainRunner reach Nov 2009

Here ends the self-promotion minute…

The Plan for Afghanistan

After years of neglect, Afghanistan is finally getting the attention it requires. But seven years after President George W. Bush gave a rosy outlook on Afghanistan before abandoning it for Iraq, the cost of both success and failure have risen tremendously as we have solidified a reputation that the Taliban and Al Qaeda propagandists invoke without much effort.

In a few hours, President Obama will announce his strategy for Afghanistan. Undoubtedly, the cacophony of responses will include recycled sound bites from the media, pundits, Congress and others who eager assert their own vision of the past (often selective and revisionist) and the future. But so much of the commentary to date has been shallow and ignorant of the struggle we are engaged in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and elsewhere that it is not surprising that American public’s support for the mission in Southeast Asia is faltering. This decline is surely to the delight of Al Qaeda and the Taliban who understanding the struggle for minds to affect the will to act: it directs his operations while our failure to “get it” has greatly empowered him.

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Public Diplomacy and New Technologies

Beginning January 15, 2010, I will be teaching “Public Diplomacy and New Technologies” (PUBD510) at the University of Southern California. The semester-long course will meet every Friday for 3hrs as part of the Masters of the Public Diplomacy program. This is a practical class intended to make the student an effective information actor and capable of explaining to senior policymakers the requirements of the modern information environment.

The focus will not exclusively be on the “new technologies”. In fact, I’d rather call the course “Public Diplomacy in the Now Media Environment”. There is no “old” or “new” media, simply Now Media. When speaking with the BBC or The New York Times, are your comments restricted to the broadcast or print editions of the respective outlets? Today’s news and information is simultaneously instant and persistent, global and local, and moves seamlessly across mediums: print, broadcast, cellular, and online.

The course will explore the foundations of public diplomacy, the legislation (of course), and the convergence of old and new media into Now Media. We will spend time on the opportunities and constraints on the US government as an information actor, adversarial use of the global information environment, including their use of YouTube, and other actors such as China, NATO, and hackers. We will look at the tools to identify and monitor the listening being created as well as citizen diplomacy in “non-traditional” issue areas. There will be several case studies, including one on the US healthcare debate, private sector risk management, Afghanistan and Pakistan (of course), and another case study of the students’ choosing. Several guest lecturers will contribute their expertise, either in person or teleconference.

I look forward to teaching at my alma mater.