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

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1949: “You’ve told us why the Voice, but you haven’t told us what it is”

"INP Kept Busy 'Untwisting' News of U.S."
Source: “INP Kept Busy ‘Untwisting’ News of U.S.” by Emily Towe in the December 18, 1949 edition of The Washington Post. [INP – International Press and News Division. USIS was the distribution side, while INP and other divisions in Public Affairs were the production side.]
In August 1949, George V. Allen wrote an article for the Washington Star newspaper. He was responding to a frequently question of the time: why were Voice of America programs not conveniently heard inside the United States. Allen was the best person to answer the question as the Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, and thus the “owner” of VOA and the rest of what we today would call “public diplomacy”  Continue reading “1949: “You’ve told us why the Voice, but you haven’t told us what it is””

VOA in 1967


In May 1967, The New York Times reported that the Voice of America was:

  • Broadcasting using 35 transmitters inside the United States;
  • Broadcasting using 57 transmitters outside the United States;
  • Broadcasting in 38 languages, although one-quarter of the total output was in English; and,
  • Rebroadcast by 3,000 radio stations using taped programs, adding 15,000 transmitter hours each week.

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No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency – endnote edition

Cheshire cat queries Alice

You know you’ve heard it. Whether it was at the office, at school, or a social setting (how erudite of you!), you heard someone bemoan the loss of the United States Information Agency. Perhaps that someone was you. In my experience, these laments are really a coded acknowledgment that the U.S. lacks a strategy, an organizing principle, and empowered individuals to operate in an information-driven world. Continue reading “No, We Do Not Need to Revive the U.S. Information Agency – endnote edition”

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”

From the past: FBIS and World War II

In late 1940, the State Department was concerned about ‘anti-American propaganda being short-waved hourly to Latin America.’ The Department of Justice was concerned whether ‘Axis agents in the United States received direction and guidance from Nazi short-wave programs,’ plus a growing concern about ‘the growing aggressiveness of Japan as reflected in her radio broadcasts.’ In addition to wanting to know what was coming into the United States, State, and others saw foreign government broadcasts as a necessary insight.   Continue reading “From the past: FBIS and World War II”

Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites #76

September 2, 2015

Intended for teachers of public diplomacy and related courses, here is an update on resources that may be of general interest.  Suggestions for future updates are welcome.

Bruce Gregory
Adjunct Professor
George Washington University
Georgetown University Continue reading “Diplomacy’s Public Dimension: Books, Articles, Websites #76”