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U.S. Speaking with One Voice

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

U.S. Speaking with One Voice

Article excerpt

New Department of State unit draws fears, critics

Seeking to spin its message effectively overseas, the Clinton administration is creating a new U.S. State Department unit that will release information from different federal government agencies to foreign news outlets through one, combined voice.

The new International Public Information division (IPI) is expected to coordinate the release of news from the State Department, the Pentagon, and other U.S. government agencies to overseas news organizations and residents, according to U.S. officials.

"What this is intended to do is organize the instruments of the federal government to be able to support the public diplomacy, military engagements, and economic initiatives that we have overseas," says David Leavy, a White House National Security Council spokesman.

But critics fear the organized effort could block information from government sources that should be made available to foreign news services.

"It has a little bit of authoritarianism; it sounds like suppressing information more than getting it out," says Bill Monroe, the retiring ombudsman for the Stars and Stripes newspaper and former editor of American Journalism Review. "The fewer sources you have, the more you are dependent on those sources. The more sources you have, the better the information."

Faisal Alzaid, five-year Washington bureau chief for the Kuwait News Agency, also expressed concern that the new approach could block information. "That would limit the flow of news," he says. "I don't think it is needed. …

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