Our Goverment Committed to Engagement

These are the remarks of Judith A. McHale, Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs , Vilnius, Lithuania mad on Dec. 11, 2009

This means that the old hierarchies and barriers to communication are melting away. No one holds a monopoly on information. Those who try to control it can never be successful in the long run, as the young people of Iran have so powerfully demonstrated.

People across the world, in all cultures, are no longer willing to be passive consumers of information. They are seeking out the information they want, when and how they want it, and they expect to participate actively in shaping their information environment.

In the current news environment, consumers get their information from user-generated content, social networking, blogs, vlogs and twitter, and not simply from established media outlets.

The network of citizen journalists is growing and thriving. And I believe this is an exciting development.

There are those who fear that this cacophony of voices will threaten the integrity of journalism and that traditional news gathering organizations will be pushed to the margins.

I am more optimistic about the future, because I believe that like people, businesses adapt. The best among them — the most innovative — are already doing that.

I recently visited South Korea, which, like Lithuania, has among the fastest and most reliable broadband connections in the world. While there, I met with and toured the offices of one of the leading daily newspapers. These days, though, they define themselves not just as a newspaper, but rather as a content provider.

They are platform neutral, which means that no matter how their consumers seek information, whether on paper, on-line, on mobile devices, through an e-book, e-paper, or interactive television screens, they are delivering it. Media companies which are either adapting or are innovating in this new environment are thriving.

I am optimistic about a future in which so many voices contribute to the global dialogue. To those who argue that the integrity of journalism in this environment is in peril, my response is that trust is as fundamental to the news business as it is for all human interaction.

When accessing and sharing information on platforms like Facebook and Youtube, you link to posts by your friends and associates–people you trust. And you critically evaluate the blogs that you read for their accuracy, and if they lose your trust, they lose their relevance. Similarly, media organizations which embrace the highest professional standards will preserve the trust they have earned and continue to thrive in a changing media environment.

Finally, for all of us who have been supporting and advocating for democracy, we should regard this development, where so many voices are a part of the dialogue, where individuals are being heard and are shaping the debate, as a triumph.

This rapid evolution – or, more accurately, revolution – in global communications has thrust what we call public diplomacy to the center of international relations. We have moved from a paradigm of diplomacy as government-to-government interactions, to one of government-to-people and people-to-people.

We are fortunate in the United States that we have a President and Secretary of State who are committed to engagement with the people of the world, and restoring the kind of leadership based on the democratic values and two-way communication that has made the United States a force for global progress for so much of our history. They recognize public diplomacy as an essential ingredient of 21st century statecraft.

via Remarks to Vilnius University.

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