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Beirut – 25 March 2005

As I write this it is late evening and Lebanon's Future Television is deep into its nightly talk show. Four hours, more or less, on where the country is headed. In the upper left corner of the screen a black mourning band cuts across the station's logo. Next to it is the legend "40 ... for Lebanon." The number marks the days since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. The words are part of the Lebanese opposition's slogan: "The Truth ... for Lebanon."

Journalists are shocked, shocked to find government videos on local TV newscasts; Karen Hughes, meet Mike McCurry.

There are two big public diplomacy stories this week that are at odds with each other.

One is that the U.S. government has failed miserably in getting its story out to the world, that’s why people hate us, and Karen Hughes is the only one who can save the day.

March 15, 2005
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AMMAN, Jordan -- 14 March 2005

According to news reports over the weekend, President Bush plans to appoint his long-time media advisor, Karen Hughes, as the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. That this post has been vacant for months, even amid general agreement that America’s image overseas is in need of a radical makeover, is itself testimony to the depth of the challenges the new undersecretary faces.

Let’s pause for a moment to reflect on trends in U.S. public diplomacy during the almost two months that this column has been offered here: what we have seen are developments that confirm what we can call the Ted Turner rule.

In 1948, gasoline was 26 cents a gallon, a new car was $1,500, and you could drive it to see Bob Hope in the movie "Paleface," or head home to watch Milton Berle cavorting on your small, round, green TV screen.

1948 was also the year that Congress enacted the Smith-Mundt Act that has, for more than half a century, prevented Americans from understanding how a critically important part of the U.S. government carries out its responsibilities: Under that law, domestic distribution of U.S. government media content meant for overseas audiences was forbidden.

Amman, Jordan

This is an important moment in the Middle East. Events have been moving quickly in several countries around the region. The questions now are whether the momentum for reform can be sustained, and whether the United States, despite its poor reputation throughout the Arab World, can play a constructive role.

WASHINGTON, March 4 -- There are no independent news organizations in the Arab world. That was the assertion of Arab journalists addressing a conference on Arab media today, who said the only truly independent voices in the Arab world are bloggers.

A Reporter Remembered: Dan Rather, Ed Murrow and the changing face of news and information.

In the 1960s, when President John F. Kennedy wanted a voice of America with impeccable credentials, he turned to Edward R. Murrow. In his career at CBS News, reporting live from wartime London, later anchoring nightly news on radio and inventing much of modern broadcast news, Murrow personified the dedication to fair and unbiased news and information that Kennedy wanted as the face of American public diplomacy of his time.

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