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Yelling for Understanding of International Relations

Let me say this first:  I am definitely not a fan of  the Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

When I was working for a German internet service provider, our chief marketing officer thought that showing us a clip of how Steve whips up the people at Microsoft would be a good motivator.

I wasn’t motivated. I was just shocked. This moment fixed my picture of Ballmer for the eternity.

So I was really surprised when I saw an article on paidcontent.org this morning discussing Ballmer’s speech at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

The same crazy jumping Ballmer that shocked me some years ago said one of the most interesting things I have read about the financial crisis in traditional media in the last weeks:

“I don’t think we are in a recession, I think we have reset,” he said. “A recession implies recovery [to pre-recession levels] and for planning purposes I don’t think we will. We have reset and won’t rebound and re-grow.” Ballmer, named media person of the year at this year’s festival, also painted a bleak picture for the future of traditional media, arguing that newspaper publishers have failed to generate new revenues from the digital opportunity. He said that within 10 years all traditional content will be digital”

I have seen a lot of boring articles about Google killing quality journalism in the last months.  Some people were asking if media should be the next industry that has to be supported by the governments. There are still a lot of tradional media companies praying that the hypothesis of Wolfgang Riepl stays true. He said in 1913  that “new media never make the old media disappear”.

We need traditional media to understand the most important questions in international relations, security and foreign policy. Of course we are impressed by the possibilities of the internet and the rising influence of social media like blogs, Facebook or Twitter. Yes, these days the Tweets from Iran are amazing.  But as my colleague Rashunda Tramble mentioned in this blog:   “Tweetable doesn’t automatically mean reliable.”

Therefore I should probably rethink my picture of Steve Ballmer. Maybe a  jumping, stomping and yelling man is needed to wake up traditonal media and save their important role in our understanding of international relations and foreign policy.

ISN Weekly Theme: Nagorno-Karabakh

Landmines in Suarassy, Kashatagh Region, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, courtesy of Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2006

Landmines in Suarassy, Kashatagh Region, Republic of Nagorno Karabakh, courtesy of Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 2006

This week, the ISN focuses on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over this de facto independent territory has been running since the break-up of the Soviet Union. Mediation efforts by the ‘Minsk Group’, a group of OSCE member states, haven’t brought any substantial success. Some even argue that they’ve been counterproductive.

As other disputes stuck in a ‘no peace, no war’ situation for so long, Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to the ‘frozen conflicts’ species. But the dramatic meltdown of the South Ossetia conflict last summer showed that frozen conflicts should be taken very seriously indeed.

You might also want to check our resources on the whole Caucasus region or on mediation in peace processes in general.

The Solferinos of Today – Views from the Field

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the event that lay the foundation for international humanitarian law and humanitarian aid. The grueling battle of Solferino saw the launch of Henry Dunant’s campaign that resulted in the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions setting today’s standards for humanitarian law.

This year also marks the 90th anniversary of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions.

The ICRC, which owes its existence to Solferino, commissioned an opinion survey about the needs and expectations of people in eight of the most troubled places in the world (Afghanistan, Colombia, DRC, Georgia, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia, the Philippines).

Not surprisingly, the study concludes that armed conflict causes extreme widespread suffering. Almost half of the people surveyed have personal experience of armed conflict. Numbers are topping in Haiti, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Liberia, where almost everyone is affected. Around half of the people with conflict experience are displaced or have lost contact with a close relative. Almost one-third have lost family members.

Contrary to what we probably would expect, people in these eight countries are optimistic about the future. All the same, anxiety and sadness rises and trust declines as a result of conflict.
» More

Only 278,478 to Go

Would Her Majesty Be Amused? / screenshot: guardian.co.uk

Would Her Majesty Be Amused? / screenshot: guardian.co.uk

In a supersized version of crowdsourcing, the Guardian is asking its readers to sift through MP expense documents released by the UK government and pull out interesting nuggets and key facts.

The info goes into the Guardian’s Data Blog, which keeps a running total of some of the more eye-brow raising receipts turned in by the MPs.

A helpful suggestion from the Guardian: “Examples of things to look out for: food bills, repeated claims for less than £250 (the limit for claims not backed up by a receipt), and rejected claims.”

According to the latest stats, it seems the lawmakers spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Or at least having it decorated.

The Media – a Hostage’s Friend or Foe?

The story of The New York Times journalist David Rohde’s escape from his captors in Afghanistan raises interesting questions about the role of the media in hostage takings. As has been widely reported, the major media outlets displayed a high level of solidarity by keeping mum about Rohde’s capture for 7 months. By resisting their natural urge to report the hostage taking of one of their peers, the international journalism corps honored the request of Rohde’s family and The New York Times not to make the story public.

Some commentators refer to this “media blackout” as a mere case of “professional courtesy.” They point out the double-standard of journalists seeming to be more concerned about a hostage’s safety when the victim is a member of their own profession. At the same time, they freely report on the hostage taking of aid workers, soldiers, or tourists.

The intriguing question here is, however, did this “media blackout” strategy work in Rohde’s case? We have no way of answering this question. After all, Rohde did not get released. He escaped his captors. » More

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