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March 17, 2010, 10 a.m.

The Milton Wolf Seminar: NGOs, media, and diplomacy

For the next couple days, I’ll be attending a seminar on how changes in the media landscape are affecting diplomacy. The event, the Milton Wolf Seminar, will include a series of panels and discussions with leaders at international NGOs, journalists, and members of the diplomatic community — a group I’m excited to meet and interview and whose thoughts I’ll be sharing with you here.

The seminar is put on by the American Austria Foundation, the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna and the Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School of Communication, which is sponsoring my trip.

The seminar builds on themes from the series we ran here at the Lab, in partnership with Annenberg, on the changing role of international NGOs in the media ecosystem, with newspapers and TV cutting foreign bureaus and coverage abroad. As the introductory post asked:

What happens when news making and journalistic functions are increasingly outsourced or claimed by other actors with no original training in this field and its editorial standards? How central are new media to the alterations and growing distortions of the traditional journalistic sphere and how, if at all, can they be harnessed?

One session at the conference will address that issue directly, looking at how large NGOs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Medecins sans Frontieres are using social media to produce and spread an incredible amount of their own content. One of the panelists, Simon Cottle of the Cardiff School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies wrote an essay in our series on how NGOs bend to the needs of new organizations in the battle for coverage:

NGOs have become increasingly embroiled within a “media logic” that is far removed from the ideals and aims of humanitarianism. This is demonstrated in how aid NGOs seek to “brand” their organizations in the media in response to an increasingly crowded, competitive and media-hungry field; how they pitch and package stories in ways designed to appeal to known media interests, deploying celebrity and publicity events; how they regionalize and personalize media coverage of humanitarian work in the field, marginalizing if not occluding local relief efforts and the role of survivors; and also how they expend valuable time, resources and energy to safeguard their organizational reputations and credibility against the risks of media-led scandals.

It should be an interesting couple of days — keep reading.

POSTED     March 17, 2010, 10 a.m.
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