Selection and commentary by PDC members and authoritative experts in the field
Wednesday, October 29th 2014
One of the first things I learned when I became Director of the Press Office at the State Department was to trust and respect the Associated Press reporters.
The wire service reporters who covered the Department 24/7 from their little office on the second floor understood State, the personalities of the different bureaus, the proclivities of senior officers both career and political, and the nuances of American foreign policy far better than many FSOs.
The AP reporters at State in my time were Barry Schweid and George Gedda. It is probably fair to say that every Foreign Service Officer working on important policy issues during the last 40 years has talked to one or the other of them, on the record or on background. They invariably traveled with the Secretary, “door-stopped” senior officials at the C Street entrance, and judged a crisis by which HST windows were still lit late at night. If you missed their copy in the newspapers, you could hear them voice their reports on AP Radio and NPR. They led off every noon briefing with a tough question.
Saturday, October 18th 2014
Public Diplomacy officers are often called on to speak at openings and conferences, and every American diplomat drafts remarks for ambassadors and other administration principals. These skills are always improved by reading and listening to speeches from the past.
Nearly eight decades after his death, memories of the American cowboy, movie star, and humorist Will Rogers (1875-1939) have faded. The genial Oklahoman was, however, a major figure in American culture in the early 1930s, and we must count him among our nation’s great communicators -- in his unique way.
Ranching, roping, Texas Jack’s Wild West Circus, vaudeville, the Ziegfeld Follies, and Hollywood -- during the Depression, the career of Will Rogers personified the American dream. He gained fame as a film star in 50 silent and 21 sound movies, and he was a newspaper columnist and aviation advocate. His death in an air crash with Wiley Post in 1935 occasioned a great outpouring of national grief.
Rogers’ folksy humor was remarkably clean and gentle, and he was a widely sought speaker. Many of his talks were pressed on discs.
Rogers famously said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party – I’m a Democrat," but in 1931, the chairman of General Electric, Owen D. Young, asked Rogers to help promote a Hoover administration relief initiative. According to the American Presidency Project, “The address inaugurated a 6-week campaign to raise local relief funds. Cooperating in the drive were some 1,000 local committees or community chests plus the advertising media, the film industry, and an array of public speakers.”
Tuesday, September 30th 2014
Better late than never. We should have called attention to the important report "Data-Driven Public Diplomacy" when the United States Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy released it on September 16. The report reviews how the impact of PD and international broadcasting can be measured and makes recommendations on how to strengthen evaluation.
Tuesday, September 2nd 2014
A year ago, I feared that the "trifecta" of scandals then engulfing Washington -- Benghazi, the IRS and the Tea Party, and government access to Americans’ phone and email records -- posed some real challenges for Public Diplomacy officers overseas. Back then, I could hardly imagine how difficulties would multiply.
Friday, August 22nd 2014
By Joseph B. Bruns. Mr. Bruns served as Deputy Director and Acting Director of VOA. He was the first Director of the IBB. Bruns also held several senior position at USIA. He recently retired as COO of WETA after 15 years in public broadcasting.
Recently, there has been a great deal of debate, and no small amount of axe grinding, regarding the mission and the effectiveness of US international broadcasting under the Broadcasting Board of Governors. This debate has now been brought to a head with the passage in the House of Representatives of the boldly named US International Communications Reform Act of 2014, HR 4490, which would create a new structure for US international broadcasting and attempts to create a division of responsibility between the VOA and the multiple surrogate services such as Radio Free Asia, which have proliferated since the end of the Cold War. The authors of the legislation take the view that efficiency is better served by consolidating all of the surrogate services together under a new board, and then turning VOA, with its own separate board, into a specialized service, a kind of super Washington news bureau, reporting only on the United States news, interests and policies.