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An Exchange with Fareed Zakaria
An Exchange with Fareed Zakaria    Taqrir Washington With the launch of a new weekly show of International Affairs on U.S. Public Television stations, we cornered Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and the host of this 30- minute program entitled “Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria,” for a chat of our own on US media and its coverage of I
Wednesday, November 23,2005 00:00
by WR,

An Exchange with Fareed Zakaria 
  

Taqrir Washington

With the launch of a new weekly show of International Affairs on U.S. Public Television stations, we cornered Fareed Zakaria, the editor of Newsweek International and the host of this 30- minute program entitled “Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria,” for a chat of our own on US media and its coverage of International news. The show will debut on April 1st on public Stations across the United States.

Taqrir Washington
If you take the issue of terrorism out of the equation, do Americans really care about international news and world events?

Fareed Zakaria
I think that fundamentally the concern is related to terrorism. It does not extend very strongly and very far beyond that, but Americans unfortunately need to be scared to be interested in the world. The Russian Bear scared them during the Cold War and the Islamic Mullah has scared them now. But there is an interesting thing that happens as a result of that, of being scared of Russia and Soviet Communism. Americans did get interested in the world and in the fate of societies in the Eastern Europe, even in the Third World because they felt that something was at stake. I think what the war on terror has done is that it has made people concerned about the fate of societies, the fate of Lebanon, the fate of Egypt, and even the fate of some countries outside the Islamic world. But in an odd way this is some kind of an unexpected benefit for the Islamic world, which is that American people are now very interested in what happens in countries like Iran, in Afghanistan, and you know, it comes with some negative aspects, but it comes with enormous positives as well. Willingness to spend money there, willingness to pay attention to what is going on, to push regimes to be more accountable to their people. So on the whole I think it has been a benefit.

Taqrir Washington
Will the emergence of Bolgs and independent coverage set a new trend or impact overall coverage of International affairs and news?

Fareed Zakaria
You know, I think the biggest change is just that many news organizations feel that they have more license to do more foreign news than they did before. It (American International news coverage) is still very focused, particularly in Television almost exclusively focused on where the American troops are, where there is a big demonstration, where the images are that people would care about. I don’t think that this revolution in news making that has taken place, with the rise of the blogs and such has as much applicability in terms of International coverage as it does domestically. Because a large part of what blogs do is they hold mainstream media accountable by constant fact checking, by constant analysis and counter analysis and with international news the crying need is simply for coverage. Just to barely and basically cover the event. To cover the fact that something happened. There is rarely enough time to give a great deal of spin on it or something like that. So while I find the blogs, for example from Iraq, useful they don’t have any more information than other news coverage. In Iraq you have a particular problem which is everyone has a pin-hole view of what is going on because the security situation is so bad that everyone is generalizing on the basis of their own specific and limited knowledge. So the blogs are at the mercy of that same phenomenon and have not been able to, as result, change coverage on Iraq at all.

Taqrir Washington
As we have focused so much on the Middle East, the EU has expanded and China and South-East Asia have been on the rise. There may be a “Foreign Exchange” coming out of Beijing in 15 years. Are we paying enough attention to other developing news around the world?

Fareed Zakaria
I hope there isn’t a “Foreign Exchange” coming out of Beijing because we are going to try to syndicate globally. But you are right. This is the most profound problem with the way we cover the news which is we cover the story of the moment; we cover the story that has vivid media images, or vivid and urgent political requirements of the moment. The great big story going on in the world today is the rise of Asia, particularly the rise of China and India. The other great story is that globalization is increasingly empowering small countries. Countries that were on the periphery, South Africa, Brazil, Turkey, all are doing very well and we are not paying attention to that. We really don’t know as a country, as a political system, what to do. We are not equipping ourselves as Americans or equipping ourselves as a government to deal with these challenges, and they will be the great challenges that shape the 21st Century. My guess is that the problem with Islamic fundamentalism will actually resolve itself in the next decade, but these other problems are the great challenges and there is very very little coverage of them.

Taqrir Washington
How is your show, “Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria” different from other shows like it?

Fareed Zakaria
I think the best thing we have going for us is that we don’t have to distinguish ourselves from shows like ours, because there are no shows like us as we are literally the only show on TV that is devoted to International affairs. The distinctive quality to it though, even if there were others to come up, is that we try very much to give Americans a sense of what is going on around the world, what the world is thinking about, how the world reacts to America and American foreign policy, about its own concerns. So while this is not some kind of a rule, but a vast majority of our guests will be foreigners and that is a big difference. You see a discussion about International affairs in most American TV programs, it is a discussion between two elderly white Americans who are talking about the process of democracy in Iraq or what Iranians are really like. Well, what I have tried to do is to say let’s actually talk to an Iraqi abut democracy in Iraq. Let’s talk to an Iranian about what is going on inside of Iran. Let’s talk to an Indian about outsourcing. In that sense I think it is very different and we hope to retain that sense of bringing the world to America.


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