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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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