Inaccuracies of Christian Science Monitor’s Moscow Correspondent

The American public has been losing confidence in the media for some time. A causal factor may be the now-decades-old reversion of the news as a profit center, and away from the “public good” that it had been for most of the 20th Century. Another factor surely is the democratization of information gathering as the former gatekeepers, whether a newspaper or wire service or TV network, were displaced by the “friends and family” plan of acquiring, sharing, and commenting on news events. Continue reading “Inaccuracies of Christian Science Monitor’s Moscow Correspondent

Lippman on the Media

Walter Lippmann was an astute political philosopher, journalist, and economist. He (rightly) viewed competent journalists as critical to democracy, while ignorant journalists, and ignorance of journalism, was a threat to democracy.

“Men who have lost their grip upon the relevant facts of their environment are the inevitable victims of agitation and propaganda. The quack, the charlatan, the jingo, and the terrorist, can flourish only where the audience is deprived of independent access to information.”

— Walter Lippmann, Liberty and the News, 1920

Continue reading “Lippman on the Media

Commentary: Democracy is not just another ideology; freedom is not just another point of view

At the recent public meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Public Diplomacy Council President, and Senior Fellow at the University of Southern California, Adam Clayton Powell, III, offered his comments on the direction of BBG media. His words are a must read, whether in the context of journalism in general but particularly in the area of foreign affairs reporting.  Continue reading “Commentary: Democracy is not just another ideology; freedom is not just another point of view

False Rivals: how RT is larger & targets different audiences than the BBG

If you’re paying attention to the global struggle against Kremlin subversion through propaganda, you’ll often hear a narrative that the Broadcasting Board of Governors and RT, the Kremlin broadcaster formerly known as Russia Today, are competitors standing toe-to-toe. Responses to my recent article on whether RT was a lobbyist or a foreign agent included this comparison. The notion that they square off against each other or seek the same audiences is based on two simplified, shared attributes: funded by their respective governments and seeking audiences abroad.  Continue reading “False Rivals: how RT is larger & targets different audiences than the BBG

Russia’s War on Information

Source: Russia Today, downloaded Jan 4, 2011
Source: Russia Today, downloaded Jan 4, 2011

Read my December 15, 2014 article at War on the Rocks where I describe the threat posed by the Kremlin’s propaganda and influence activities. It is a brief overview of Putin’s purging of internal dissent and independent thought and efforts to create confusion, chaos, and subversion across Russia’s near-abroad and everywhere else. 

The best counter to propaganda is truth and transparency, not more propaganda. Honest, unbiased facts coupled with unimpeded discussion by an informed citizenry is the most powerful weapon against the Kremlin’s disinformation that drains the future from Russia’s people and threatens Russia’s neighbors. … This is not about Russia Today. This is about Russia’s tomorrow.

Read the whole article here

North Koreans Quietly Open to International Broadcasts

By Alan Heil
(This post originally appeared at The Public Diplomacy Council.)

For well more than a decade, Korea experts who specialize in international media have been examining the impact of foreign broadcasts and DVDs on users in North Korea. They have done so through a combination of in-country surveys and debriefings of defectors from North Korea, refugees and travelers abroad. In annual reports, Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders invariably have ranked that country as having the “least free” media in the world. Yet the curtain of near total silence appears to be opening as never before in North Korea.

Continue reading “North Koreans Quietly Open to International Broadcasts

Looking for a headline aggregator for Europe? The Rundown is one of the best

Are you looking for a headline aggregator covering Europe, Russia, and South Central Asia?  The Rundown, compiled by Zach (@ZachPrague) at Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), is one of the best.  The mission of RFE/RL is to “promote democratic values and institutions by reporting the news in countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.”  Naturally, the headlines Zach gathers focus on this mission.
Continue reading “Looking for a headline aggregator for Europe? The Rundown is one of the best

Bye NPR. Hello BBC, Al Jazeera, Chinese Radio.

The decision by Congress the House of Representatives to defund NPR and block local public radio stations from using federal money to acquire NPR content is, like any action, likely to have interesting unintended consequences. This action comes at a time when demand for information and knowledge of affairs around the globe continues to grow, to focus on just of the many values of NPR. 

Congress The House is creating an opportunity that the US commercial media is unlikely to take advantage of, for whatever reason. The old giants of radio news, from CBS to NBC to the AP are unlikely to jump into the new gap and coverage of similar breadth and depth. The AP has the content, but will their agreements with their members – they are an association with members – allow them to provide content to radio that may also be carried by the local paper? Will Federal Communication Commission rules prevent local newspapers and television from expanding into the space presumably to be vacated by NPR?

The most likely winner, at least the short term, will be foreign government broadcasters. Already, local public radio stations often fill gaps in programming with news from the BBC. It is easy to imagine demand for the BBC will increase if programming from NPR becomes unavailable or drops in quality. But BBC is not the only game in town. The recent performance of Al Jazeera English in covering the Middle East may embolden AJE to explore avenues. I would be surprised if Russia Today wasn’t actively seeking to expand its reach. The same for Chinese Government broadcasters, including Xinhua and Radio China International. I do not anticipate a large expansion into public radio, however.

Forget of course other tax-payer supported news organizations from being legally available to news consumers within America’s borders.

What are you thoughts on this potential example of the law of unintended consequences?

Update/clarification: As NPR points out, including NPR’s Andy Carvin, only 2% of NPR’s funding is federal.

Freedom to Connect

By Jerry Edling

“You will not be able to stay home, brother.

You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.
You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,
Skip out for beer during commercials,
Because the revolution will not be televised.” — Gil Scott-Heron, From the album “Small Talk at 125th and Lennox” (1970)

“The revolution will not be televised…but it may be tweeted.” Posted on weeseeyou.com

January 28, 2011

Freedom to ConnectIn some ways, Gil Scott-Heron’s song “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” was ahead of its time. The lyrics were recited rather than sung, accompanied by congas and a bongo drum, making it either a vestige of beat poetry or one of the first examples of rap. His point, which must be understood in the context of domestic unrest in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the U.S., was that the revolution was not a pre-packaged bit of pop culture, sanitized for your protection and brought to you with minimal commercial interruption by Xerox. The revolution, in his opinion, was real; or, as the final line of the song reads,

“The revolution will be no re-run, brothers; The revolution will be live.”

Little did he know that in the 21st century a revolution of a different sort would be live and it would be televised. And yes, as the quip on weeseeyou.com vividly notes, it would be tweeted. As of this writing, the Biblical land of Egypt is illuminated with cell phone lights and fireworks as mobs with no definable leaders spill into the streets to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak as president after weeks of protest and unrest. The revolution was televised, and the power to bring those images to the world was in the hands of the revolutionaries themselves.

Continue reading “Freedom to Connect

Three signs your newsroom is not ready to cross the digital divide

The Knight Digital Media Center posted ‘three signs’ that indicate a newsroom remains focused on print, with online activities an ‘add-on’ operation. In today’s “now media” of converging platforms and audiences, the newsroom needs to think about where and when both the audience and the information are to be found. Alter the recommendations somewhat and the lessons apply to public diplomacy and public affairs offices as well.

1. The staff still reports to an assignment desk that is focused on print and/or is organized in departments that correspond to the sections of a newspaper. This inevitably means that newsgathering for print gets more time than the news organization can afford and print production demands drive the daily reporting and editing assembly line. The fix: Newsgathering staff reports to the online assignment desk. Print becomes a production team that draws heavily on the online report for content at the end of the day.

2. News meetings focus on top news for the next day’s paper and meeting times reflect print. If your frontline editors are focused on daily meetings that happen in the middle of the morning and late afternoon, you’ve got a big problem. If you’re spending more than one-fifth of the meeting time talking about the next day’s newspaper, you’ve got an even bigger problem. The fix: Meetings run by online editors at times that reflect digital publication timetables (like when to serve peak traffic) and focus primarily on online content, traffic and engagement metrics.

3. The top newsroom executives – say the Editor and Managing Editor(s) – are all print veterans who look at online from the outside. …

The change is a shift from the clock of the producer to that of the consumer. Lost to memory is that current print schedules were based on the consumer: when the commuter picked up his paper to work and from work. Today, the consumer no longer ‘picks up’ the paper as much as she grazes for information during the day across multiple devices and sites.

While technology-poor communities may not have the luxury or time to ‘graze’, their news providers tend to have that access. Other news organizations are a ‘market segment’ that is a valid target for information professionals as the roles of consumer and producer of news become blurred.

Organizations that fail to adapt to the modern information environment will loose access and relevance to audiences that matter. of course this is not true if the paper simply wants to serve a discrete community within a fixed geography, determined primarily by balancing printing and distribution against revenue, where there are no serious competitors.

Event: International Broadcasting and Public Media

Checkout this event of potential value at the New America Foundation, “International Broadcasting and Public Media.” The event’s description is promising, as are the panelists (described as ‘participants’ but surely the audience will be allowed to participate as well, right?).

In an increasingly digital media landscape, people across the globe are relating to their news outlets in new ways. The missions of media producers are changing, as technological innovations reshape news networks into communities. The assumption is that U.S. public media institutions and international broadcasters are also transforming themselves to serve the emerging public interests in media. How should these institutions be changing to meet the needs of audiences that expect to engage in news and information, not just passively receive it? Even amid the explosion of information, there are information gaps. If foreign coverage one of them, how best is it produced and by whom?

I will not be there, unfortunately, but below are questions off the top of my head I’d like asked and discussed (are there really ‘answers’?).

Continue reading “Event: International Broadcasting and Public Media

Mexican narcos step up their information war

The GlobalPost has an interesting article by Mike O’Connor on the expanding manipulation of the press in Mexico by a drug cartel. This escalation in information warfare by the Zeta Cartel moves beyond intimidation to block certain stories as the cartel issues stories to discredit their enemies and build “credibility” of their friends. From Analysis: A PR department for Mexico’s narcos:

Instead of reporting on crooked public officials or the growth of organized crime, newspaper editor Martha Lopez runs press releases from the Zeta cartel. …

She said the gang has established its own public relations arm that issues stories the local papers are under orders to run, or else journalists will get hurt. …

There are two editorial lines in the press releases. According to Lopez, the Zetas write their “stories” to make the Mexican army look bad. The army is deployed in the state to help fight the Zetas. So the Zetas send stories about army human rights abuses. “Some of those stories are accurate in a small way, but they are exaggerated. Sometimes they are not true,” Lopez said.

And, then, Lopez said, the Zetas want to make the local police look good. “They protect the police because the police are their allies,” she said. “We get stories about how the police or the chief are so wonderful, especially the chief.”

The Gutenberg Parenthesis and the Extinction of Newspapers

An important question in today’s information environment is how will people receive their news? The centuries old model of print may be going to the margins because of financial challenges: more readers requires more printed copies, requiring larger and more expensive printing plants and distribution channels. The Age of Print may be dead.

The Gutenberg Parenthesis is the theory that the age of text was a temporary interruption, a manifestation of technology where information, knowledge and truth were structured and “owned” in volumes. We are “going forward to the past” where conversation, gossip,  the visceral and unstructured content dominates. Continue reading “The Gutenberg Parenthesis and the Extinction of Newspapers

Influence and Propaganda Conference this week

2010iandpadThis week is the Influence and Propaganda Conference in Verona, New York, outside of Syracuse. Put on by the IO Institute in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, the conference will be a frank and open discussion on the nature, purpose and format of propaganda and activities intended to influence. This conference comes at a critical time as the volume and quality of disinformation and misinformation increases in an environment that empowers virtually anyone. The gatekeepers of yesterday, governments and major media, are increasingly bypassed, ignored, reactionary or co-opted as today’s information flows across geographic, linguistic, political and technological borders with increasing ease and speed.

Continue reading “Influence and Propaganda Conference this week

The Importance of Understanding Wikileaks

City University London is hosting a conversation with Wikileaks front man Julian Assange on 30 September 2010. The event, titled Too much information, security and censorship in the age of Wikileaks, will ostensibly ask several questions stemming from the sensational release of tens of thousands of internal military communications, labeled the Afghan War Diaries by Wikileaks:

Was this a victory for free expression? Or a stunt that put hundreds of lives in danger? Is censorship a necessary evil in wartime? And will mass leaking of information change journalism?

To be sure, this was not an exercise of “free expression.” An expression would be the labeling and framing of the material. The purpose was, as Wikileaks purports is their mission, to create transparency for the purpose of accountability. City University should then ask if this mission was accomplished and, if so, was there a cost? The questions must move beyond what Assange says he wants to achieve and challenge him on the results he gets.

Continue reading “The Importance of Understanding Wikileaks

Political News and Social Media with Politico Editor Jim VandeHei

Eric Schwartzman interviews Politico editor Jim VandeHei on Politico and his views social media. As always, Eric is an able interviewer who asks smart, well-researched questions. The result is a good “brain-picking” of VendeHei on the “future of grassroots diplomacy, the growth of emerging communications channels like social and mobile for news consumption,” in particularly how “Politico amalgamates the old media values of fairness and accuracy with the speed and immediacy of new technologies.”

Listen to the interview at On the Record Online. Eric provide a helpful timeline of the interview (copied below). Just before the 17 minute mark in the interview, just after the commercial, is a question the Broadcasting Board of Governors will have to wrestle with as they necessarily open to social media: who to do deal with vitriolic comments.

Also, Eric asked VandeHei a question from Don Kilburg, a Foreign Service Officer at the U.S. Dept. of State, on the hijack of the agendas of global media, online and offline, and global leaders by an individual who previously had an audience of at most fifty.

Continue reading “Political News and Social Media with Politico Editor Jim VandeHei

Event: Influence and Propaganda Conference

The Information Operations Institute, in partnership with the MountainRunner Institute, invites you to attend the Influence and Fighting Propaganda Conference.

Identifying and countering propaganda and misinformation through dissemination that avoids the label of propaganda will be the key themes of the event. Discussions will explore who, how and why can people or groups be influenced, and difference between engagement from the lowest to the highest levels of leadership.

Russ Rochte, retired US Army Colonel and now faculty member at the National Defense Intelligence College, and I will co-moderate a panel on the media exploring the tension between “Media as an instrument of War” and the journalist’s traditional obligations to the truth, objectivity, informing the public, and verification. What is the impact on the media’s relationship with itself, its readers, and its sources as the media struggles for mind-share and relevance in a highly competitive environment of diminished resources, intensified news cycles, and direct audience engagement by news makers, and pressure to de-emphasize journalistic ethics. What constitutes the media and how does an organization like Wikileaks change the environment? How does this show in the natural conflict between the government and the media and how is it exploited by America’s adversaries?

This will be a two-hour panel, October 14, 10a-12p, with:

  • Wally Dean, Director of Training, Committee of Concerned Journalists (confirmed)
  • Jamie McIntyre, Host: “Line of Departure”, Military.com (confirmed)
  • Dana Priest, Washington Post investigative reporter (invited)
  • Bill Gertz, reporter for The Washington Times (confirmed)

The agenda for the conference is below.

Event website is here
Date: October 13-15 (2.5 days)
Location: Turning Stone Resort, Verona, New York (map)
Registration Fee: Students/Faculty: free; Government: $50; Military: $25; Corporate/Industry: $200
Registration: online or PDF

Continue reading “Event: Influence and Propaganda Conference

The world of Wikileaks Part 2: A means of evaluating Public Diplomacy

By Ali Fisher

Wikileaks Part 2 looks at the impact of releasing information through the traditional media on the network of interactions using social media and reflects on the potential to use network analysis in evaluation. (See also The Small World of Wikileaks, Part 1.)

image From a Strategic Communications and Public Diplomacy perspective, evaluation has become increasingly important with forthcoming reports and even spending decisions, for example, in the UK. If an organisation is seeking to develop lasting relationships, seeking to subsequently identify those relationships would be a logical part of any evaluation or bid for further funding.

The example of Wikileaks has much in common with those engaged in Public Diplomacy and seeking to measure their attempts to disperse information on specific issues. In terms of Public Diplomacy, Wikileaks part 1 discussed creating a baseline of interactions and information sharing behaviours. Part 1 also highlighted that information about Wikileaks was trapped in a ‘Small World’ limiting the ability of Wikileaks to go mainstream.

Continue reading “The world of Wikileaks Part 2: A means of evaluating Public Diplomacy

Summer 2010 issue of Arab Media & Society

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The Summer 2010 issue of Arab Media & Society is available. While I’m sure all of the articles are worth reading, some caught my attention.

The Coming Contenders by Paul Cochrane.

There are 487 free-to-air (FTA) Arabic satellite TV channels broadcasting on Arabsat, Nilesat and Noorsat, in addition to the dozens of ailing terrestrial channels.The region’s media landscape has become saturated, as indicated by the drop in the number of new channels going on air, from 104 between August 2007 and March 2009 to just thirteen during the financial year to April 2010.

When it comes to pan-Arab satellite news channels, there has been no major entrant into the broadcasting arena since the Saudi-backed Al Arabiya, part of the MBC Group, went on air in 2003 in response to the Qatari-owned heavyweight, Al Jazeera.

There have certainly been attempts to contend with the two big players, yet the numerous Arabic-language news channels launched by governments in recent years to win hearts and minds, such as by Britain (BBC Arabic), Russia (Russiya Al Yaum), Iran (Al Alam), China (CCTV) and the United States (Al Hurra), have not drawn the same audience figures.

Continue reading “Summer 2010 issue of Arab Media & Society

Pursuing Human Rights through Public Diplomacy

image The latest issue of PD is available. PD is a bi-annual magazine that focuses on one particular subject area in each issue. The theme this time around is “Pursuing Human Rights Through Public Diplomacy“, a complex area not often explored by public diplomacy researchers. As the editors note, “Nonstate actors [in the area of human rights] do not necessarily consider themselves public diplomacy practitioners, and thus are not always aware of the public diplomacy power they wield.”

A small selection of the articles in the current issue are:

Continue reading “Pursuing Human Rights through Public Diplomacy