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The State Department's Video Channel

Friday, Aug. 17, 2007

In the past, I have criticized the State Department and the U.S. government in general for making poor use of so-called "information and communications technology" like blogs, and the Internet in general, for public diplomacy. In a February blog post, after having difficulty locating a transcript of a press conference by a military commander in Iraq, I specifically wondered why the U.S. military doesn't make better use of video on its Web sites.

"If we were running [Multinational Forces-Iraq public affairs], we'd post a copy of the video of every press conference on our site, and also post it to YouTube, so blogs like this one could show it directly," I wrote then.

Well, it seems the State Department has finally come around a bit, launching a video section on their Web site that makes available daily press briefings, interviews with department officials, and even "special reports" on certain topics.

Sure, this video interview (which the AP reports the department also posted on YouTube) with Cal Ripken, Condoleezza Rice and Karen Hughes is a little cheesy. But there's also more compelling fare such as this this interview with the State Department regional security officer who was working in Karachi at the time of Daniel Pearl's murder.

In the realm of immediate news that may be of interest to bloggers and journalists, there are, in addition to the videos of press briefings, video "podcasts" with State Department officials, such as a recent interview with Nicholas Burns on the Rice/Gates trip to the Middle East.

The fact that, as with YouTube, the video can be embedded on any Web site, means it could catch on in the blogosphere, if the content is sufficiently succinct (the video "podcasts," for example, are too long) and interesting. The next step: dubbed or subtitled translations in Arabic and other languages.

As an example, here's yesterday's "Middle East Digest" briefing from State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack: