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Is Public Diplomacy Journalism Dead?

May 29, 2009


Maybe public diplomacy journalism is only dying, or maybe it has just become boring to write about the subject these days. This seems to be so on both sides of the pond.

I first noted the observation by John Brown, Adjunct Professor of Liberal Studies at Georgetown University, who puts forth his informative (and always colorful) Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review, and who does not see as much being written today about PD as in the past. Professor Brown told me he has not made a "scientific study, but…I find far fewer PD items than I did say last month ago and during the Karen Hughes days."

This is also so in Europe, says media observer Morand Fachot from that vantage point. "There is certainly an awareness in official circles of the importance of PD, "he says, "however it is not or is hardly ever being discussed in the press - unlike the U.S. where there are countless reports, articles and even think tanks dealing with the topic." Mr. Fachot says "the (PD) emphasis in France would be language and the need to 'protect' French from being swamped by English."

John Brown sees PD as having "lost its Bush-era luster." More muted, for example, are not only the lampooning of a President Bush, but also the edge of such blogs as the Bush era, Sparkle Pony, "I Keep Track of Condoleezza’s Hairdo So You Don’t Have To," which would ask readers such things as "Please speculate wildly about Condi's hunky bodyguard." "Beep! Beep! Make way for the Condibot!" Sparkle Pony chattered. "What can I say? No wonder Condi doesn't need a boyfriend." Thus far, no one has taken on Hillary Clinton in such fashion, and perhaps no one will.

Of course there are great PD blogs out there, Matt Armstrong’s Mountain Runner. And Kim Elliott’s insider insights and the CPD Blog of the USC Center on Public Diplomacy to name just a few. But there must be a wake-up call at the source to regenerate interest in the dialogue on U.S. PD among writers and readers of the subject, and that wake-up call must come from the White House itself.

As for now, John Brown laments, "The Obama administration isn't talking much about 'public diplomacy…'."


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Interesting. While stories

Interesting. While stories about US PD may indeed not be as numerous as in previous years, there seems to be a steady increase in PD stories coming out of Asia. Our PDiN team may wish to offer their observations.

Maybe PD is being talked

Maybe PD is being talked about less because its being done more under the Obama administration. I'm not sure it actually is. I think it may be premature to talk of the death of pd journalism, just less stories about the need for the US to do more public diplomacy.

I have been aggregating

I have been aggregating stories for CPD's "Public Diplomacy in the News" for just over a year now, and would say that while lately there might be a slight decline in news on traditional USG public diplomacy (in fact, this week we called the State Department to ask if there is an official press release about Judith McHale's confirmation available yet, and were told that there is not), there still remains considerable discussion among people in the PD community.

Twitter has been rather active, where people are posting messages and news with the tags "#pd20" and "#pdtweets". Not to mention the foreign ministries and diplomats (EU, British, Dutch, French, Portuguese...) which keep popping up with their own Twitter accounts.

And, as Sherine mentioned there's news almost every day debating S. Korea's new nation branding efforts, as well as a steady stream of news about cultural diplomacy - everything from French-Thai cultural festivals, to "Turkmenistan Cultural Days" in Saudi Arabia, and even an Iranian Cultural Week in Pyongyang.

Bush-era PD bashing/lamenting may have been big news last year, but this year it's clear that more players and countries are into the PD game in a real way, and those news stories are simply fascinating.

One other thing: let's be

One other thing: let's be clear, for a reporter or blogger trying to make a go of it in Washington, there are career-killing consequences to engaging in the kind of satire against Hillary Clinton (or the President, for that matter) that simply did not exist when Rice and Bush were in office.


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