The first panel was Richard M. Smith, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Newsweek moderating a panel of Newsweek coorespondents. The Panel was Stryker McGuire, the European Editor and London Bureau Chief, Joshua Hammer, the Jerusalem Bureau Chief and Richard Wolffe, the Diplomatic Correspondent in Washington DC.

I first met Richard Smith at the Sony Open Forum where his insights on what would happen if we went into Iraq was in hind-sight very accurate. I met Richard again at the Japan dinner at Davos this year. Richard is one of the most balanced, articulate and friendly newsmagazine editors I've ever met and I'm always impressed by his candor and insight.

The panel was really great. It was a very frank discussion on a variety of issues ranging from American politics, the Middle East to Tony Blair. One notable thing was that when I asked about the role of blogs and amateur journalism with a small "j", I think everyone acknowledged their existence and their importance, but probably thought of them still in the context of email feedback, etc. and didn't really "get" blogging. I cornered Richard afterwards and made him promise to spend time with me to let me go through blogging in more detail with him.

One very interesting thing that came up was the issue of the lack of coverage of important issues in "not so important" parts of the world. Richard discussed the difficult job that he has of trying on the one hand to provide news that people were interested in while at the same time trying to report on issues that were important that people did not feel were important to them. There was a discussion about how the further away culturally people were from you, the less likely you would "care" about them. Since most of the readers of Newsweek were in developed nations, Israel obviously "felt" more important to them than say, Africa. Having said that, Newsweek has reported more on Africa than most major US press. Listening to Richard talk about these decisions reminded me of the struggle that all politicians face -- need to gain public support on the one hand, while on the other having the moral obligation to push forward important policies that were either unpopular or seemed unimportant to most people.

Obviously, I believe blogs can play a huge role here and I've decided to learn more about issues in Africa so I can blog about them.

6 Comments

as someone who was given the blogging gospel by joi ito at the 2003 hyper-network conference... not a better person in the world to help you "get" blogging

Joi - I take issue with your idea that for you to blog more about Africa will make a difference. Consider the relative influence of Salam Pax and Billmon - Billmon has a wider political overview, but Salam is by far the more influential. Blogging enables those directly affected by events in the news to have a voice in the same timescale as TV News, and that is its power in this context. So is there a way for you to use your influence to enable a Liberian refugee, say, or a Congolese cassava farmer to blog? A small, cheap program aimed at facilitating the unheard to have a voice could be a truly powerful agent for change.

Ian. I agree. We need to get people in these countries to blog themselves. The problem is that many countries still have very bad access and are extremely poor. We discussed this today in our afternoon session. I think cell phones will penetrate before PC's will. It may be some form of moblogging. Also, we can get NGO's to help us get voices out of these countries via video, text and audio. I think that bloggers can help these NGO to help people in these countries have their own voice.

You have to remember that Iraq is quite advanced compared to the truely poverty stricken developing countries.

Phones will penetrate in terms of units, but not I think in terms of publishing power. Take the example of Argentina: when they abandoned their dollar peg and the exchange rate went through the roof, telephone usage plummeted - but internet usage actually went up. The people, who generally don't have their own computers, turned to internet cafes because data transmission costs on IP are so much lower than on the phone network. I see this dynamic holding true in any urban setting, no matter how poor it is. Rural settings, I agree, could be different.

All the above suggests to me that a fund to reimburse bloggers' internet cafe costs in poor neighborhoods of large 3rd world cities could be very effective. If promoted by an alpha blogger with a PayPal donation system, I could see that taking off.

I think in this election year that all candidates for the Presidency of the United States should have their complete and proven education and jobs held published so that all of the American people can see just who and what we are voting for. With all of the questions regarding George W. Bush's military record and his experience in the private sector before running for public office, it is critical that we know what credentials he, and all candidates, have earned. I have been in the workforce for almost 38 years (two years in the Army, honorably discharged with honors) and I've always been employed, never on any kind of assistance, disability or break from work. Can any of the candidates say that? The voting public has a right to know the truth about the candidates and I would hope that sometime soon you will publish from start to the present each and every job and position that each candidate has held. How is anyone suppose to make a concrete decision on any candidate unless we know where they have been and what they have earned on their own. Too many times too many politicians have been coat-tail riders with no background appropriate to serve this country. Please reveal all candidate's pasts so all of us can make up our minds because it really does matter. Thank you!

3 May 2004

When I woke up Sunday morning, for the first time in my life, I was not very proud of my country. Unfortunately that feeling was the result of the actions of just a few, but those actions may well have set this country back 50 years. As I am sure was true with most Americans, I was repulsed by the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being treated in the most inhumane manner and the images of those responsible posing and smiling. Now we MUST do four very important things. 1) Those responsible must be punished to the fullest extent of the law based on the facts of a truthful investigation. To say they did not receive proper training or that they were instructed to carry out their actions is unforgivable. The military I know would never train her soldiers to act in such a vile manner and were they ordered they had the absolute right to not obey such an unlawful order. They knew without a doubt that what they were doing was wrong and they must be held fully accountable. They personally violated the principles upon which this country is founded. 2) The Commanding General should lose her command, rank and probably her commission. To publicly state that she was not allowed to visit a part of her command is absolutely absurd and even if true she should have been the first to raise questions. She failed to uphold the faith and trust placed in her as a commissioned officer of the US Army and her actions clearly point to her total failure in command. She must take full responsibility and should now work vehemently to sort out the truth. Her final punishment, as the commanding officer, should be greater than those who actually performed the actions. 3) The US government must herald the truth. I am a supporter of President Bush and I strongly recommend that he immediately personally and publicly apologize to the Iraqi people and the Arab world. He should then call for a complete and open investigation by an independent agency such as the UN. To leave this in the hands of the military or even some Congressional committee would only incite those who would claim a cover-up. Maybe more than any time in our history we need total openness complete candor and the willingness to say we were wrong. 4) The press was absolutely correct to bring this to the attention of the public. In this case I am saddened by Gen Meyers admission that he asked the press to hold it until tensions decreased; just another attempted cover-up. But now the press MUST give equal treatment, time and front-page coverage to the many good things that Americans and our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have done and are doing in Iraq. We need stories about hospitals opening, schools being rebuilt and the freedoms that are being enjoyed by the majority of Iraqis. The press needs to help improve our now tarnished image. I support our invasion, the end to a murderous regime and the attempt to build a better Iraq, but that must be done by the Iraqis with the help they request. Now every American must work harder and make a stronger commitment to showing the world what is good about this great country. We stand at another crossroad in our history and we must decide what America the rest of the world will see and know. It is our actions, our basic faith and the decency in our hearts that must now carry the light and torch of freedom.

Geoff Nimmich
Army Officer Retired
Leesburg, VA
703-728-2967

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