Headline Diplomacy: How News Coverage Affects Foreign Policy

Headline Diplomacy: How News Coverage Affects Foreign Policy

Headline Diplomacy: How News Coverage Affects Foreign Policy

Headline Diplomacy: How News Coverage Affects Foreign Policy

Synopsis

Seib explores the many ways in which news coverage shapes the design and implementation of foreign policy. By influencing the political attitudes of opinion-shaping elites and the public at large, the news media can profoundly affect the conduct of foreign policy. Seib's text analyzes important examples of press influence on foreign affairs: the news media's definition of success and failure, as in reporting the 1968 Tet Offensive in Vietnam; how public impatience, fueled by news reports, can pressure presidents, as happened during the Iran hostage crisis of 1979-81; how presidents can anticipate and control news media coverage, as was done by the Bush administration during the 1991 Gulf War; how press revelation or suppression of secret information affects policy, as in the cases of the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban missile crisis, and various intelligence operations; how coverage of humanitarian crises affects public opinion; the challenges of live TV coverage; and the changing influence of news in the post-Cold,War world. By covering a wide range of issues and examples, this important text will stimulate thoughtful appraisal of the relationships between the news media and those who make policy. It will be of interest to students and scholars in journalism, political communication, and international relations.

Excerpt

Much of the news media's influence on foreign policy-making is indirect. Journalists shine their searchlight on events. Sometimes this captures the attention of the public and politicians; sometimes it is ignored.

News reports may speed up decision making or make a small matter suddenly loom large. Only rarely does coverage in itself substantively change the course of policy. Political leaders usually keep their balance, no matter how dramatic the tilt of reporting. Events themselves, not the coverage of them, determine policy.

But if news organizations set aside their commitment to accuracy and objectivity, amplify their voices to a sustained roar, and pursue a policy goal with single-minded fervor, they may create a superficial "reality" that captivates the public. The resulting public opinion can overwhelm all but the most resolute politicians. This does not happen often, but when it does, it offers convincing evidence of the influence of news media on the making and implementing of policy.

A century ago, some of America's most aggressive news organizations displayed their clout in this way. Coupled with the lassitude of some political leaders, the press's assertiveness helped produce the Spanish- American War.

FUELING A CRISIS

Cuba in the 1890s was a troubled outpost of Spain's decaying empire. Autocratic colonialism met with increasing resistance on the island; insur-

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