July 14th, 2008 Heather Kovar
The United Nations describes itself online as “a global association of governments facilitating cooperation…”
Of course, the organizations efforts do not come without criticism.
But just what goes on there in Turtle Bay other than the facilitation of traffic jams? And the flags out front, what countries do they represent?
As a journalist, how much do you know about the UN?
That’s the question poised in this coming Tuesday night’s session at the Press Club Penthouse. It’s an International Radio and Television Society Foundation Q&A Seminar with a panel of young journalists and producers who cover the United Nations.
While you probably won’t get a lesson on flags of the world, you will learn about the leaders and issues these journalists cover, the challenges they face, and possibly even hear some heated debate.
Zeb Eckert, who covers business news for Bloomberg’s Asia Pacific television channel, will serve as moderator for the event. He tells me plans to be very objective during the panel, but that he will definitely raise the “UN criticism” angle to hear the panelists’ response.
In an email interview for this post, Eckert said, “The United Nations works to address the world’s pressing social and economic challenges. It is a vast, complex organization with no shortage of critics around the world. It is the responsibility of international journalists to interpret the UN agenda and hold its leaders accountable here and abroad.”
Let me introduce you to one critic I know. Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto, editor of WSJ’s online editorial page, OpinionJournal.com, told me he feels “The U.N. is repugnant in theory–an organization that makes no distinction between accountable, humane regimes and brutish dictatorships like Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, Kim Jong-Il’s North Korea and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. In practice it is at best ineffectual, at worst a cesspool of corruption.”
Taranto continues, “It would be a great destination for an investigative reporting, but for the most part American journalism’s “adversarial” post-Watergate ethos is directed against the U.S. government, so that a few reporters, notably the great Claudia Rosett, largely have the field to themselves.”
It will be interesting to hear what the panelists have to say, though none work for an American based press organization. You’ll hear from representatives of Italy’s ANSA, al Jazeera, NHK in Japan, El Punt in Spain and the BBC Afrique.
Back to our moderator, Eckert, also wrote: “At a time when many question the UN’s relevance in the world, it is incumbent upon journalists to give the public a clear view of the UN’s work. Whether covering Security Council meetings in New York or humanitarian efforts in Darfur, journalists play a key role in analyzing these efforts and illustrating the impact on the world’s neediest individuals.”
And I was worried about knowing the flags. (Yes, the picture is of me and my dog- it was used for this past year’s holiday card.)
Oh, Taranto did give a note he called on the positive side. He wrote: “The presence of the U.N. creates an interesting polyglot feel to the neighborhood of Turtle Bay, where I live.”
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