It’s true that the search for a lost plane can be what passes for international news in some corners of the media. And the old days of journalism with well-staffed bureaus in Moscow and London are long gone. But I have come to believe that something even better is taking its place. For those of us who seek out the latest news from Kharkiv to Khartoum, today more than ever, there is top-notch international affairs journalism and enterprising reporters who go to great lengths to hunt down the story, often at great personal risk.
Why does this matter? This week, the Wall Street Journal released its survey of Americans and reported a record: Almost half of all Americans (47 percent) now say they want the United States to be less active in world affairs. A decade ago, only 14 percent felt this way. Given our recent history in Iraq and the tumultuous situation in countries from Syria to Libya to Ukraine, many people around the world might agree. But disengagement — for the United States or any other country — is not a real option in today’s interconnected world.
Global development is the best example of this. Disease, conflict and climate change respect no border. Economies are linked as is commonly understood, but so too is our health, our security and our environment. For Americans who see a world of risk and want to withdraw, the antidote is information and insight.
And for Americans, there’s more of it than ever before. From Fareed Zakaria’s analytical take on his weekly CNN program GPS to the newly launched Al Jazeera America channel to the intrepid and pulse-quickening field reporting by VICE on HBO — the world in all its nuance and complexity is being brought right to our doorstep.
There’s the Global Post with its correspondents around the world and the World Post with insights from global leaders. Established media is not to be outdone either: the Atlantic, International New York Times, Foreign Policy and so many more are as committed as ever to telling a global story. Even programs like Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown on CNN — which blends food tourism with weighty topics of politics and culture — are part of a renaissance of international affairs journalism that deserves encouragement and celebration.
And celebrate we will. This weekend, Hollywood stars, Wall Street tycoons and Silicon Valley legends descend on Washington for the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. President Barack Obama will give a humorous speech to a room full of journalists and media executives ready to be rhetorically skewered by the commander-in-chief. Then there are parties galore, many sponsored by major media companies, that add to the festivities. For journalism, this is one moment when the spotlight is turned on us.
One thing has been missing from that spotlight in prior years though: a focus on the importance of international affairs journalism. That’s something we at Devex and the venerable Foreign Affairs magazine set out to change last year with the very first event specifically celebrating coverage of the global beat.
This year, the party — appropriately titled “The Global Beat” — is back, and it features award-winning journalists who cover international affairs and global thinkers like Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass. Representation from Hollywood is a must during these festivities, and we are honored to be joined by Tony Goldwyn, the esteemed actor who, as is apropos, plays the character of the president of the United States on the hit ABC television drama Scandal.
The party will be held this evening at the new offices of the United Nations Foundation, our host for the evening. The U.N. Foundation’s own poll, released just last week, adds important nuance to the idea that Americans want to be less engaged in world affairs. In their survey, 71 percent of Americans favored U.S. policy that includes “international cooperation” and “America providing leadership and aid for international humanitarian crisis situations.”
It’s a complex world and Americans know that. They see risks beyond our borders and many want to be less active in world affairs as a result, but the vast majority don’t believe in total disengagement.
Where does that leave us? Increasingly it means Americans will turn to relief and development workers as our boots-on-the-ground. There is an entire ecosystem of NGOs, foundations, mission-driven companies and development agencies which are becoming more and more important in places like Myanmar, Somalia and Haiti. These professionals, this ecosystem needs to be informed to do its job well.
That’s where Devex comes in. Whether it’s getting the inside story on World Bank reforms or reporting on humanitarian logistics from the ground in the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan, Devex reporters write with the knowledge that everyone from Melinda Gates to a new Peace Corps volunteer requires insights and information to do more good for more people.
The 120 reporters, analysts and professionals at Devex who follow the money and cover the latest innovations in global development do it knowing that even the most local information has global implications. So as we celebrate the global beat, I hope you’ll join me in toasting my colleagues at Devex and international affairs journalists everywhere by adding your voice to the celebration online using #globalbeat.
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