CGCS Co-Sponsored Conference Investigates the Role of Non-Government Organizations in Determining the News

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How are NGOs—Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Save the Children and others—resetting the news agenda globally, and how is foreign policy affected by this trend?

That’s the primary question for a gathering of practitioners (in diplomacy and journalism), graduate students, and civil society actors that will take place March 17–19 in Vienna, Austria. The event is sponsored by the Annenberg School for Communication’s Center for Global Communication Studies (CGCS), the American Austrian Foundation, and the Diplomatic Academy at the Vienna School of International Studies.            

Part of a series of Milton Wolf Seminars (named for a former U.S. Ambassador to Vienna), the event builds on an ongoing project of CGCS and the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University (the NGOs and the News Essay Series) that explores the changing role relationship among the media, NGOs, and formal government actors in the international sphere. 

Some of the questions that will be examined at the seminar include:

  • What transparency issues arise concerning relationships between NGOs and journalists?
  • How does the rise of NGO activity reposition the line between advocacy and journalism, to the extent it exists?
  • How are international relations affected by the rise of the NGO sector as major players?
  • What effect do news making activities, as practiced by civil society organizations, have on foreign policy and the conduct of diplomacy?
  • Can we identify conditions under which NGO news making activities are particularly effective and/or have positive influence on international deliberations?

“Dramatic changes in news operations due to new technologies and economic downturns have positioned many NGOs to be sources for what gets reported and how,” said Professor Monroe E. Price,  director of CGCS at Annenberg. “In the tradition of the  Milton Wolf Seminars, we are  bringing  together an exemplary and diverse group who have, among them, many perspectives on the questions.” 

Among the attendees will be a small group of students selected through an essay contest on the subject of the seminar. These include young men and women from Central European University in Budapest; Goldsmiths in London; Columbia University; Tufts University; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of California, Irvine; and the University of Southern California.  

Other attendees will include Miklos Haraszti, who has served as the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media; Ambassador Hans Winkler, head of the Diplomatic Academy; Kimberly Abbott, North America Communications Director for the International Crisis Group; Richard Gizbert, host of Al Jazeera English’s weekly media program; and Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina who was the final authority on civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement.  

Launched in 2000, the Milton Wolf Seminar Series aims to deal with developing issues in diplomacy and journalism—both broadly defined. Topics in the past included challenges for journalists and diplomats in the 21st century, the role of media and diplomacy in ethnic conflicts, analyzing global security issues, and technology, policy, and media.