Friday, February 20, 2009

ICFJ Puts Public Diplomacy to Work

While researching international journalism, I came upon a very interesting exchange program run by the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ). If you’re not familiar with ICFJ, according to its Web site, “The International Center for Journalists, a non-profit, professional organization, promotes quality journalism worldwide in the belief that independent, vigorous media are crucial in improving the human condition.”

The program, called the International Journalism Exchange, seems highly effective and engaging, promoting American ideals of freedom of the press and the American journalistic standards of objectivity and professionalism. The argument can be made that these standards are not always abided by in U.S. media sphere, but these are the ethics taught in journalism schools across the country and many journalists strive to abide by them.

Here is a description of the program from the ICFJ Web site:

“The International Center for Journalists’ International Journalism Exchange brings ten or more newspaper or online editors with at least five years’ professional experience from the developing world to the U.S. in October and November every year.

Participants first take part in a week-long program orientation in Washington, D.C. where they attend seminars and workshops conducted by seasoned media executives, practitioners, and other experts on a wide range of topics, visit major U.S. newspapers such as The Washington Post and USA Today, observe press-government relations, and learn about the fundamental principles and current trends of U.S. journalism. Then, they head out to different parts of the country to work at a newspaper of comparable size as their home publication or online news outlet in their country. There, the editors spend three weeks to gain hands-on, all-around knowledge and experience of U.S. newsroom operation and management, as well as exposure to the social and cultural life in a U.S. community. The participants then reconvene in New York, where the program concludes with a debriefing and evaluation. In addition, participants get to visit major media organizations such as The New York Times and the Associated Press, as well as experiencing the vibrancy and cultural richness of the largest city in the U.S.”

Participants from the 2008 program came from every corner of the globe: Pakistan, Argentina, Kenya, the Philippines, Croatia, Macedonia and South Africa. According to ICFJ, “More than 200 editors worldwide have participated in the International Journalism Exchange since its inception in 1984.”

This journalism exchange is just one of the many small examples of American public diplomacy at work by the non-governmental sector. It is well known that the media has a profound effect on societies, culturally, politically and economically. Although the benefits of an exchange program such as this certainly take time to develop, the International Journalism Exchange works to create cross-cultural understanding and higher quality journalism over time. It allows the participants to take what they have learned with them and strive to improve their work as journalists in their home countries. The end result benefits the U.S. and the world as a whole.


  1. Programs such as the ICFJ and those at the Meridian International Center, while removed from the government, are often the channels through which many official exchange programs operate. For instance, look at the list of source countries for the journalists in this trip and then look at the "Government Agencies" listed as Friends & Supporters:

    Meridian International Center:

    Contracting out public diplomacy might be an interesting way to approach this subject area.

  2. Feri,

    Thanks for noticing this important program. I'd also draw your attention to a similar program ICFJ did last year bringing almost 50 journalists from around the world to cover the U.S. presidential elections. The journalists came from all over the world, each spend much of the program covering the election in a "battleground state" where they got to see the candidates campaigning. Their testimonials about what they learned about free elections and how independent media cover them were inspiring. More here:

    Patrick Butler, VP of ICFJ