Colleague (Up) in Arms

As important as “who will run an organization whose functions range from offering neutral ground for superpower diplomacy to operating clinics in remote Third-World villages” is, coverage of the UNSG selection has been “superficial,” rails former UN Wire editor Steve Hirsch in yesterday’s World Politics Watch.

What reporting does occur, Hirsch writes, is akin to a broken record.

“Too much coverage of this issue has been repetition of conventional wisdom — the candidate is likely to be an Asian;… the Americans do not back the idea of an automatic regional rotation… U.N. insider status very likely would prevent P-5 endorsement…”

Yes, perhaps the selection process and governments’ secretiveness about their top picks prevents ongoing coverage, Hirsch acknowledges, but the “scant attention” which the media has given the deliberations is, in his view, inexcusable.

“…readers would have benefited from any insight into the talks’ direction. It is possible to find UN diplomats and P-5 country officials willing to talk, as I found out when I reported a story on this subject for National Journal earlier this year. If the press can worm stories out of the CIA, it can work the UN universe to get better information on the moves to select Annan’s successor.”

Considering that the results of the Security Council’s straw poll last month leaked within hours of the vote only supports Hirsch’s contention that someone will talk if the media cared to probe. And it is not as if this discussion is taking place in a conflict zone, or amid the rubble of a natural disaster or otherwise far away from the comfortable surroundings of journalists’ desks. They are talking about it right down the street, for crying out loud! Hirsch seems to be pleading.

The most important work of the United Nations is poorly covered in Western media anyway, Hirsch reminds readers, with the consequence being a poorly informed public with “no way of knowing whether this kind of work is being done badly or well.” The lack of quality coverage on who will succeed Annan, likely to be decided with the next month or two, likewise weakens public confidence in the process.

“At a time when many in the press are cutting back on international news coverage, and giving more space and time to softer, fluffier content, this is exactly the sort of story they should be putting more resources into. There is no excuse for the scant attention an important, but easily covered, story like this one has received.”

Amen.

One Response to “Colleague (Up) in Arms”

  1. […] UNSG and Steve Hirsch have recently expressed dismay at press coverage of this momentus event. […]

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