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.

Thanks, Al…

If you’re new to via Al Kamen’s In the Loop, welcome and browse a while. By the way, Kamen was referring to this post Fresh Start for the Broadcasting Board of Governors when he cited me and this blog. As noted in the post, Michael Meehan, like some other BBG nominees, was previously nominated to the Board by President George W. Bush. The potential (and informal) link between the BBG and State Department’s public diplomacy office may ultimately benefit State’s public diplomacy bureaucracy and mission.

See also:

White House nominates a new slate to the Broadcasting Board of Governors

The Broadcasting Board of Governors oversees the United States Government’s non-military broadcasting. Its function is to provide managerial guidance from talented private sector leaders. The combined audience of the broadcasting it oversees is over 171 million, an increase of 71% over 2003, according to the BBG. Programming is in 60 languages and is provided though online media, satellite, terrestrial and cable television, as well as shortwave, AM, and FM radio. Like most advisory boards, the Governors, including the Chairman, are part-timers.

The Board is to have eight members, including the Chairman, plus the Secretary of State as an ex officio member. For over a year, however, the Board barely had quorum, and only if the Secretary of State was included. Four seats on the Board have been vacant for between one year to nearly 4 years while the terms of the seated Governors expired between 3.5 and 5.5 years ago. For all the lip service to the urgency to communicate with the world, the Board has been long neglected.

Yesterday, the White House announced a whole new slate for the Broadcasting Board of Governors: Walter Isaacson, as Chairman, Michael Lynton, Susan McCue, Michael Meehan, Victor H. Ashe, Dennis Mulhaupt, Dana Perino, and S. Enders Wimbush. The announcements and bios are here and here. Isaacson has been a candidate for over six months but has rumored to have held out until all the vacancies were filled.

Change is good, but more change is needed: the Chairman must become a full-time position in order to fully support and champion the needs of US Government broadcasting.

Let’s hope the nominees are confirmed quickly.

Will the US Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy be getting some attention soon?

See also:

Event: Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems

Homeland Security’s Wicked Problems: Developing a Research Agenda for Homeland Security” is a two-day event co-hosted by The Heritage Foundation, Center for Strategic and International Studies, The U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, and The George Washington University’s Homeland Security Policy Institute.

The location is The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Auditorium and the dates are November 12, Thursday, 9a-4p and November 13, Friday, 9a-12:30p. RSVP to attend.

I will be on the first panel Friday morning at 9:30a: Communications During Crisis: Roles, Responsibilities, and Capabilities. On the panel will be Jonathan Thompson, Executive Vice President, Systems Media Group, and former Director for External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency; Kimberly Dozier, CBS News Correspondent; and Matt Armstrong, Armstrong Strategic Insights Group, LLC. Moderating is Professor Dennis Murphy, Professor of Information in Warfare, United States Army War College, Center for Strategic Leadership.

US allocates more funds to anti-Iran broadcasts?

From PressTV:

image The United States has incorporated a bill into its annual military budget, which will allocate millions of dollars for Persian-language broadcasts. … US President Barack Obama signed the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE) into law earlier this week. … Analysts in Iran say the move comes in response to the arrest of members of a US-based terrorist group — the Kingdom Assembly of Iran.

This take on VOICE by an Iranian government news agency is not surprising. What is surprising is the image in the Google News search (see above) that is a bit confusing. The image links to the same story as the headline, indicating they are the same and not a mash-up. It’s 2a, do you know where your brand is?

On VOICE itself, I wrote on the authorization for up to $55 million for State and BBG activities within the National Defense Authorization Act of 2010. As I noted before, the Senate and House defense appropriations committees – the people who put money into the checking accounts the authorizers open – did not go into their conference with VOICE on either agenda. They are unlikely to come out of conference with it, although if they did it would be significant that they are funding activities – activities they vociferously said should be funded – outside of their sandbox. Word is the defense appropriators won’t fund this but that the State Department appropriators – “foreign operations” – will, at least partially.

Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter

image From the US Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership and The SecDev Group comes “Bullets and Blogs: New Media and the Warfighter” (2.7mb PDF). The report is based on a three-day workshop that took place at Carlisle Barracks in January 2008, one of the best events I have attended. It is required reading for anyone (e.g. more then than the Defense community) involved in the modern information environment.

This report is rich with soundbites and recommendations supported by examples, including operations where the insurgents were the first to write the first draft of history, the draft that usually sticks especially when a factual challenge is not made within days or weeks. It will be required reading for my upcoming class as well as a class I’ll likely be teaching in the spring (details to be announced).

This report deserves a better write up, but for now, download and read it yourself and comment below. More information can be found here:

Getting to know America: supporting foreign journalists in the US

Mitch Polman wrote an interesting article last month on the challenges foreign (non-US) journalists face coming to the United States and reporting here. Borat vs. Murat highlights a critical gap in our global engagement: the failure to facilitate foreign media to get to know America and share this knowledge – as authentic communicators – back to their own countries.

Continue reading “Getting to know America: supporting foreign journalists in the US

Guest Post: Foreign Based Reporters in America are an Underutilized Public Diplomacy Resource

By Mitchell Polman

According to a report released earlier this year by the Pew Project on Excellence in Journalism, 1,490 foreign correspondents were accredited to the Foreign Press Center in Washington as of October 2008. That is an almost ten-fold increase since 1968. Foreign accredited journalists represent nearly 800 media outlets from 113 countries and territories. Journalists from Africa, the Middle East, and China account for much of the increase. From a public diplomacy standpoint, the foreign journalists working in Washington are underutilized. The State Department needs to work on developing ways to bolster the ability of foreign journalists to get the most out of their U.S. experience.

The State Department, to its credit, does operate press centers in Washington and New York that assist foreign journalists with briefings, information, and other tools that enable them to keep track of policy debates and develop contacts. The Bush administration closed a third Foreign Press Center that was in Los Angeles.

Continue reading “Guest Post: Foreign Based Reporters in America are an Underutilized Public Diplomacy Resource

More problems at State

Josh Rogin at tells us about a forthcoming GAO report on the State Department. These conditions clearly indicate major impediments to effective public diplomacy as well as demonstrate the need for Defense Department strategic communication and military public diplomacy resources (primarily, but not exclusively, MIST – Military Information Support Teams). Too many public diplomacy officers circulate only within the elite circles in their countries because of the lack of resources, time, or skills, while still believing (and reporting) they are engaging foreign publics. Hopefully Congress reads the GAO report – and other enlightening analysis of the state of State – as it considers funding Defense Department strategic communication in Europe, Africa, and elsewhere, at least for the time being.

From Josh’s GAO report finds State Department language skills dangerously lacking:

About a third of Foreign Service officers in jobs that require language skills don’t have the proficiency required to do their jobs, hurting America’s ability to advocate its interests around the world, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office.

The report, which has not yet been released, but was obtained by The Cable, spells out the consequences of having a Foreign Service that in many cases can’t communicate with local officials or populations, relies too heavily on local staff for critical functions, and can’t respond to bad press when it appears in foreign languages.

According to the GAO, the State Department blames the shortcoming on the “recent increase in language-intensive positions.” The sad truth is the Department is struggling to undo its abrogation of responsibility under the past leadership as responsibilities were shuffled of to the Defense Department with little to not struggle.

Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) captures the essence of the recommendation in my Hitting Bottom at Foggy Bottom post when he says the State Department “must take advantage of this situation and plan strategically to meet short- and long-term diplomatic needs.”

But, as the GAO report notes, a strategic plan to address this problem does not exist. Secretary Clinton did, however, recently speak at State’s Foreign Service Institute and say increases were coming.

More to come on this.


Tactical Strategic Communication! Placing Informational Effect at the Centre of Command

Written by Cdr Steve Tatham, Royal Navy, imageTactical Strategic Communication!” (PDF, 192kb) is a necessary read for communities interested in strategic communication and the operations of our adversaries. Steve is a Director of Research at the UK Defense Academy and the author of Losing Arab Hearts and Minds: The Coalition, Al Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion.

Tactical Strategic Communication!” describes how strategic communication must be holistic, agile, and awareness of both the adversary and the target audiences (related: Call Haji Shir Mohamad ASAP!). In a twist on the “guy in a cave” mantra popular on this side of the Pond, Steve notes how the Taliban transformed and adapted to their new environment:

The early years of the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan were not known for their press freedom. Technology was unwelcome, images of human beings considered apostate and world public opinion largely irrelevant to an organisation that actively sought to return afghan society to that of the Prophet Mohamed’s time. Yet the success of Al-Qaeda’s manipulation of the media in its global insurgency, and more latterly in its operations in Iraq, had not gone unnoticed.

Continue reading “Tactical Strategic Communication! Placing Informational Effect at the Centre of Command

News resources


Google Fast Flip

One problem with reading news online today is that browsing can be really slow. A media-rich page loads dozens of files and can take as much as 10 seconds to load over broadband, which can be frustrating. What we need instead is a way to flip through articles really fast without unnatural delays, just as we can in print. The flow should feel seamless and let you rapidly flip forward to the content you like, without the constant wait for things to load. Imagine taking 10 seconds to turn the page of a print magazine!

Like a print magazine, Fast Flip lets you browse sequentially through bundles of recent news, headlines and popular topics, as well as feeds from individual top publishers. As the name suggests, flipping through content is very fast, so you can quickly look through a lot of pages until you find something interesting. At the same time, we provide aggregation and search over many top newspapers and magazines, and the ability to share content with your friends and community. Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.

Continue reading “News resources

Al Shabab, Minneapolis in the news again

US Special Forces killed Salah Ali Nabhan, the man Somali-Americans who traveled to fight for the Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization identified as one of their trainers. The coverage of this ‘made for the movies’ attack should draw attention to the not-neutral territory of Minneapolis where Al Shabab has shown significant success in recruiting.

This is as a good a time as any to reread my Censoring VOA article at

Earlier this year, a community radio station in Minneapolis asked Voice of America (VOA) for permission to retransmit its news coverage on the increasingly volatile situation in Somalia. The VOA audio files it requested were freely available online without copyright or any licensing requirements. The radio station’s intentions were simple enough: Producers hoped to offer an informative, Somali-language alternative to the terrorist propaganda that is streaming into Minneapolis, where the United States’ largest Somali community resides. Over the last year or more, al-Shabab, an al Qaeda linked Somali militia, has successfully recruited two dozen or more Somali-Americans to return home and fight. The radio station was grasping for a remedy. …

Read the rest here.

Interagency failure: DHS detains VOA reporter for 10 days

Last month, the Department of Homeland Security detained a Voice of America reporter for 10 days. The man, Rahman Bunairee, had the proper visa and documentation to show he was coming to the US for a year – the primary reason of which was to escape Taliban threats. But the DHS completely disregarded both the paperwork and the requests – including formal petitions – from the Broadcasting Board of Governors to release Bunairee.

Even after his release – helped by intervention from the State Department – DHS revoked his ability to work here, leaving a critical member of America’s information team to counter Taliban and Al Qaeda information on the sidelines. Worse, the BBG nor any other part of the Government can help him financially because of DHS’s decision.

The situation has not changed after a month. Imagine if DHS made what amounts to a unilateral decision on a member of our military – uniform or civilian? The is beyond a failure of interagency cooperation.

This beyond-boneheaded decision undermines not only our ability to engage in the struggle for minds and wills played out primarily in AM and FM in Afghanistan and Pakistan – the “market” Bunairee used to work and had to physically escape from – it also sends a message to other reporters currently and potentially working for America.

I recommend you read Jeffrey Hirschberg’s column in The Washington Post for more.

Defense and Strategic Communication: what did Congress ask for before the recess?

Much has been made of made of Congressional concerns over the Defense Department’s role in strategic communication and as the de facto leading public diplomat in policy, engagement, and personnel. At first the lack of informed media coverage – and shallow or error-filled when it exists – is ironic considering the subject, but there it is part of a trend when considering that in general public diplomacy and the laws governing it are also subject to misinformation and misinterpretation (PDF, 140kb).
When The Washington Post reported on July 28 on the House Appropriations decision to slash $500 million from the estimated Defense budget request for strategic communication programs – for 10 (ten) programs which should have been “IO” (information operations) programs, a minor difference – Walter Pincus mentioned requests from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees (HASC and SASC, respectively) that preceded the House Appropriations – Defense Subcommittee (HACD) action. For your reference, the actionable items for the Defense Department in the area of strategic communication from the reports of the HASC, SASC, and HACD are below.

Continue reading “Defense and Strategic Communication: what did Congress ask for before the recess?

News or Propaganda?

If the Government has a duty to get its viewpoint before the world, is it enough merely to send abroad the texts of state papers, speeches by and against the Administration? Particularly in the world’s twilight areas…, where private news agencies would lose money operating–should the State Department send full news broadcasts of its own? …

Last week the A.P. shut off the State Department’s principal free supply of news. U.P. announced that it would follow suit. …

Said the A.P.’s board: “. . . Government cannot engage in newscasting without creating the fear of propaganda, which necessarily would reflect upon the objectivity of the news services. . . .” …

Shrewdly, Benton reminded A.P. that Britain, Russia and other nations get and pass on U.S. news from the A.P.’s report. If the use of A.P. news by BBC and Tass does not hurt the A.P. reputation for objectivity, how could U.S. broadcasts reflect on A.P.? …

Ralph McGill of the Atlanta Constitution: “The attitude of the A.P. might make a silent giant of this country when every other giant and pigmy in the world is broadcasting its own interpretation of American news events and policies.” …

From “The Press: News or Propaganda?” published in Time, January 28, 1946.

More on my Foreign Policy article about Smith-Mundt: Censoring the VOA

My article at Foreign Policy, Censoring the Voice of America (with additional information here), on the dated restrictions in the Smith-Mundt Act that prevents access to America’s international broadcasting elicited two reactions at Both of the comments were expected and both are dated and ill-informed. Shawn Powers added his voice in a must-read comment at FP:

… Mr. CKWEBBIT, the idea that the status quo protects Americans from government propaganda is an utter joke. The war in Iraq is a terrific example of how, if the government wants, it can spin the US media any which way it likes. Let us, for once and for all, move past the idea that Americans (or anyone) need protection from particular media (be it Americans being protected from VOA or Arabs from Al Jazeera) and begin a conversation about the importance of integrating media literacy into the curriculum at a young age. … propaganda is already all over our satellite systems, from China’s CCTV to Russia’s Russia Today (RT). Press TV, Iran’s English language broadcaster is even available throughout the US via Livestation. If you want to argue for protection against propaganda, I suggest you refocus your criticism.

Mr. RLHOTCHKISS: … there are many ways to know when any news media is being deceitful — you compare it to other, credible sources. As an important example, the VOA corrected the mainstream media last month regarding a poll in Honduras after the coup. Let me restate: the CSM, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Reuters got it wrong and VOA got it right. You also state: "If you want to provide objective news in different languages do like the BBC and pay for it." We DO PAY FOR IT. With taxes. $700 million a year. But you can’t read/view it due to the Smith Mundt Act, so who knows if your taxes are being spent well.

See also:

Al-Jazeera: A Culture of Reporting at in Layalina’s Perspectives

Layalina Productions publishes a new monthly “forum by academics and leading practitioners to share their views in order to explore key concepts in the study and practice of public diplomacy and Arab media.” The third author to contribute is Dr. Abderrahim Foukara, the Washington Bureau Chief of Al-Jazeera Network.

In the final analysis, TV per se is neither a bridge-builder nor a bridge-buster. I believe that the battle to close the gap between nations is often fought in the trenches of political action, not by TV programming alone.

The perception issue between American and the Arab worlds will also be determined by what actions Arabs will take not just in the Middle East but also in Washington, where important decisions are made which affect their region and the rest of the world.

The article is worth your time and can be accessed here.

The two prior essays were:

Social Media as Public Diplomacy

Layalina Productions has a new monthly publication, Perspectives, “to explore key concepts in the study and practice of public diplomacy and Arab media.” The May 2009 inaugural article was Iraqi Media: Freedom or Chaos by His Excellency Samir Shakir Mahmood Sumaida’ie, Ambassador of Iraq to the U.S. The second author was me with Social Media as Public Diplomacy. Check it out and comment here or there.

Now more than ever, the United States needs effective public diplomacy. America’s national security depends on smart policies supported by effective and agile engagement to foster understanding of our government’s policies, countering misinformation, developing partnerships, and most importantly, encouraging and empowering others to realize that the government’s fight is their fight as well. This is where public diplomacy, engaging directly and indirectly with people around the globe, proves necessary.

While America created the Internet, Facebook, and Twitter, the appreciation of the tactical and strategic values of social media lags far behind our adversaries’ practices.
In this age of mass information and precision-guided media, everyone from political candidates to terrorists must instantly and continuously interact with and influence audiences in order to be relevant and competitive. Ignoring the utility of social media is tantamount to surrendering the high ground in the enduring battle to influence minds around the world. …

Go to Layalina to read the whole article (and to check out their programs, like On the Road in America and Ben & Izzy).