Communication Leadership Blog

Easter egg of the two-headed eagle

By CCLP Staff | April 16, 2015 0

This column is authored by CCLP senior fellow Vasily Gatov, founder of the Novosti Media Lab

BOSTON--As the framework for a nuclear deal was concluded in Geneva, the world's press engaged in a commentary race on the meaning and implications of the agreement. One may expect a significant difference in public attitude in the U.S., EU and the Middle East; as various countries have different approaches and positions on the issues of security, consequences of the accord, and even the vision of the strategic implications. But when it comes to Russian media coverage of the Geneva process itself and the commentary afterward, the world is portrayed as a completely different place.

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Russia was a part of the negotiating group, and it has legitimate interests in regard to Iran. Rosatom, the country's nuclear monopoly, has been constructing Bushir NPP and has a long-term commitment in the development of Iran's energy system. Rostech, the Russian weapons producer and trader, sees Iran as a potential lucrative market and has an unfinished contract on the S-300 air defense system's delivery to the Islamic republic. Russia shares the Caspian Sea with Iran, and Russia - at least the European and South Siberia parts - lies within range of Iran's rockets, which are the cause of NATO's controversial missile defense system. With all the friendliness that Putin's Moscow demonstrates to Iran today, the diplomats and analysts never forget that Russia is ordinarily pictured in official Tehran media as a "Satan-infected country" and has never been regarded as a friend or ally. There should be no doubt that Vladimir Putin understands the danger of the potential Iran's nuclear capability.

Yet, Russian media reaction on the Geneva deal is strange. No, this is too plain to say it is strange - it's rather misshaped, twisted, camouflaged and bizarre from every angle. Assuming the high level of government control over the media (especially the media that covers international relations), the response reflects, at least to a certain extent, the similar rotten attitude to this deal in the political leadership of Russia. Assuming the complexity of the issue and the controversial nature of the Iranian state, one should expect at least some doubts or deliberation; neither is present. Also, as Russian state conducts different or separate communication modes for internal and external communications (I try to refrain from using the word "propaganda" in this particular case), an expectation assumes that the deal should be reflected differently, at least in nuances, for domestic and for international streams. But this is not the case.

First, Russian state agencies (TASS, RIA and RT) were all skeptical on a possible Geneva accord until the very last minute. When U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Minister Zahid were on their way to the briefing room to announce the breakthrough, TASS reported that "the deal is not coming together and this is a deliberate demonstration of the impotence of the American diplomacy." The wire was corrected a few minutes later but "the source close to the negotiations" told TASS that the Americans are irresponsibly tough while Iran makes a legitimate point.

Delivering the main story, Russian state media had downplayed the importance of the international accord that allowed the breakthrough (particularly the efforts of the U.S. State Department), while praising Putin's personal input in "formulating a principle of an unconditional acceptance of Iran's right to conduct a peaceful nuclear research program."

Within minutes after the announcement, TASS and RIA broadcast the commentary of an important Russian senator and head of the international affairs committee of the Upper House of parliament, Konstantin Kosachev, who declared that "Russia was the only bearer of common sense at the table," and this was the main reason an agreement was reached.

Liberal and opposition-minded press have been much less triumphant on the outcome, pointing out the possible decline of oil prices that may happen when Iran comes back to its regular supply capacity. Some reports were skeptical of such, joining the chorus of conservative and alarmist U.S. critics of the deal, underlining the capacity of Iran to fool the partners. Traditionally pro-Israel, Russian liberal media also were among the first to transmit Tel Aviv's concerns and anger.

The next day brought very bad news (predicted by some liberal analysts) for Russia. Reacting positively on the Iran deal, world commodity markets dropped the price of a barrel of oil, which Russia depends quite heavily upon) by 5 percent. Russian state media immediately downplayed the importance of the accord. It took a few days for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to develop "recommendations" on how to interpret the issue. Presenting this twisted point of view, the columnist of the government daily "Rossiiskaya gazeta" Leonid Radzikhovsky wrote, "What a strange thing is 'global politics.' USA has insisted on sanctions that damaged the country's interest. Russia was fighting to lift the sanctions against Iran, which were greatly favorable to our national interest." Some very pro-Putin (and anti-American) commentators even dared to claim the U.S.-Saudi conspiracy that doubled-down on oil to further damage Russian economy - but this notion never got traction to make it too public.

The Wall Street Journal story on the U.S. "bunker-blaster" test was a precious gift to Russian state media. On a single day (April 5th) it made the front pages of newspapers, top slots in state TV news broadcasts, 34 slug lines in the wires, and talk radio devoted several hours of evening shows to this scoop. Why? The answer is simple - the "reminder" to Iran from U.S. Air Force has been applied to Putin's constructed nightmares; but even more important - the case served as perfect propaganda material that can prove (with some spicing and manipulative assertions) the supposed treacherous character of American politics.

Of course, official and pro-government Russian press needed some interpretation of the post-April 2nd discussion. Benjamin Netanyahu's statement was widely publicized and commented on - the major tone, meanwhile, was not supportive of the concern or as one may expect, some critique on Israel's fixation on Iran's nuclear capabilities. Once again, the twisted minds of official Russian commentators interpret Bibi's hysterical claim as USA's deception of the allies that should remind Ukraine and those puny understates in the Baltics what the price and value of an alliance with America is. Alexey Pushkov, the Duma's International Committee chair, had also speculated that Israel and Saudi Arabia will now blackmail Washington and undermine the accord as it goes against their interests in the region.

The Russian reader may later find in the domestic press an apparent diversity of opinions regarding the Iran deal. As the U.S. political class was chewing over the terms and conditions, and with threats from Congress to block lifting the sanctions, Russian press immediately delivered the most obscure reactions from Washington. Every statement from John Boehner or Rand Paul or Marco Rubio on their disapproval was interpreted as President Obama's crapping pants. Despite the previously stated "importance" of the accord and praise of Russia's role in the international efforts, the official commentators took the tone of schadenfreude. Leonid Radzikhovsky (mentioned above) speculated in his commentary in Rossiiskaya Gazeta that the whole Iranian nuclear problem is a piece of PR, a camouflage only aimed to raise the importance of Iran in the global ranks.


Weeks later, oil prices came back to more comfortable levels, and Russian president Vladimir Putin undermined the first lifting of sanctions - symbolically approving the long disputed sale of S-300 air defense systems to Iran. As important as it could be in terms of Iran's security against possible strikes from Israel or presumably, the arch-rival Saudi Arabia or the U.S., this supply is largely symbolic. It will take months to complete the delivery and deploy the missile complexes. But Russian pro-government media reacted to this gesture with joy and celebration, as if Russia had just won a major war, the World Cup, or yet another Olympics. Critical notes from the U.S. and the EU, warning Putin of an inappropriate rush, only assured Russian commentators of the particular importance of this Easter Day news. A maverick Israeli journalist, who hides in Russia because of his austere pro-Arab views and criticism of his country's system of power, Israel Shamir, writes in Izvestia, "The Department of State, Israel and Saudi foreign affairs are horrified with this Easter egg delivered by a double-headed eagle." Russian cote'd'arms include an imperial double-headed eagle, the mascot of Romanov's dynasty. Shamir and many other Russian journalists, politicians and experts hurried to deliver a hymn of admiration to the fearless president of Russia, who's challenging the world hegemony with this teasing (regardless of the consequences that are yet to be weighted).

Another striking example of the twisted logic that shows up in Russian coverage of the Iran deal comes from RIA Novosti (now an empty shell of a once great news team). On Tuesday, April 14, the agency continues writing on the topic of the deal and the S-300 sale to Iran, even though there is nothing more to say. In previous days, the agency wired all statements, technical specs of the missile system, and comments from military trade experts that claim "S-300 make Iran inoculated against an devilish Israel with its outdated F-18 Hornets." So, the editor decides to cover - no joke - the comments on Western media websites that positively appraise Russia's decision to supply Iran with S-300 missiles. Assuming numerous accusations from Russian trolls ravaging the discussion boards and comment sections on global media websites, this idea is chilling and serves the general purpose of propaganda well. "Putin had once shamed Obama with a speed of his action," RIA cited some nicknamed commentator. "It's Russia, not the U.S., who struck the deal. Obama once again has a #2 tee-shirt," a CNBC user with a "desertlover" call-sign wrote, supporting the official Russian line.

I would probably save you from further quotations as they are odd and repetitive. The biggest discovery one can make with the amazing internet time machine while looking at the Russian reaction on the Iran nuclear deal is different from any version of journalism. Russian communication feels fully orchestrated and manipulated even as some actors in the chorus may look independent and critical to the official tone. News items and commentary share the same wording (dictated from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), and the news agenda is managed and set by Kremlin operatives (they have to serve Putin first, flattering his success).

Russia is speeding up to the reincarnation of the Brezhnev-styled Soviet Union, not only in international politics and domestic governance, but in communications, too. The older generation of Russia watchers should remember Andrey Gromyko, Soviet foreign minister, nicknamed "Mister Nyet." Some could even recollect the strangest mixed messages that the USSR had been sending in the last decades of its existence: "The West (U.S. and NATO) scare the world with its military might - therefore the Soviet Union has the right to stockpile its weaponry as well; but on the other hand, the capitalist society is in decay and is condemned to fall." The internal controversy of this message had been a puzzle that played out very poorly for the late Soviet Union: one day the nation discovered itself bust economically and socially, as well as abandoned by all those allies, supplied with cash, missiles and robust wording from Kremlin.

Vasily Gatov, CCLP's newest senior fellow, is a Russian media researcher and author based in Boston. He has over 28 years of professional experience in domestic and international media.

Adam Powell

Roots of U.S. public diplomacy in 1917 echo debates of 2015

By Adam Powell | April 10, 2015 0

WASHINGTON - 98 years ago, the United States government formally inaugurated the first American agency of public diplomacy, and it faced the same questions in 1917 during World War I that the U.S. faces in 2015 against ISIS.

That agency, the Committee on Public Information (CPI) was created to counter German propaganda and to create a more favorable image of the U.S. both at home and around the world. This agency and its mission was the topic of the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy's Washington Communication Leadership forum on Monday, featuring historians from the State Department and academic experts who have studied the roots of American public diplomacy.

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John Brown, Caitlin Schindler, Aaron Marrs, and Adam Howard at the CCLP Washington Communication Leadership forum (Photo by Joe Johnson)

"That is when it started institutionally," said Adam Howard, an historian at the State Department who edits a series, Foreign Relations of the United States, documenting U.S. public diplomacy from 1917 to the present. Only part of the series is finished: according to Howard, they are still working on the years of the Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon administrations. But understanding the early days is important to understanding the later years.

"People don't understand how much started" in those first few decades in the years before World War II, explained Howard.

Aaron Marrs has been concentrating on the 1917 start of formalized U.S. public diplomacy for the State Department. Marrs said that in the institutionalization of public diplomacy in the CPI, the government embarked on a wide range of activities, from pamphlets to films, spread across the country and across Europe, Asia and Latin America. The U.S. established reading rooms in other countries and translated speeches by President Wilson for foreign readers.

"Public diplomacy has been very much a part of what we as a nation did in the world," added Caitlin Schindler, a scholar on early public diplomacy at the University of Leeds. And she delved into a key issue of 1917 which reverberates today: was CPI a propaganda agency?

"It was propaganda, but it wasn't German propaganda," she said, adding that in 1917 Europeans "were up to their eyeballs in propaganda."

So how should the U.S. respond? The answer, according to Schindler, came from the people recruited to staff CPI - "mainly newspaper people" - and their view reflected their experience:

"The best way to [combat German propaganda] is straight news." Schindler added that they wanted to distinguish between German "political propaganda" and U.S. "news propaganda."

After the end of the war, she said, U.S. embassies asked Washington "to keep doing this." And so it continued, for commerce - "advertising the U.S. for business" - and because "everyone else was doing it."

The U.S. tailored its messages and media for each country. For example, in Switzerland, according to Schindler, many pamphlets were distributed. But in Mexico, she said, where literacy was lower, films were a primary medium.

John Brown, a former U.S. diplomat who now studies public diplomacy - and who planned and moderated this month's forum - noted an early and negative association with the CPI. Also called the Creel Commission, after CPI's chairman George Creel, the CPI was accused of being less than entirely truthful. Brown said that was the reason a new word entered the American vocabulary, "Creeling," a synonym for lying.

But in one important way, Howard and Marrs said, their work studying early 20th century records is much easier than the task they and other historians will have studying U.S. public diplomacy of this century: the records are all archived on paper. There is "huge concern," according to Howard, about archiving of electronic records of all kinds, records which can so easily be erased and lost forever.

"It's not just email," he said.

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This CCLP Washington Communication Leadership program was part of a monthly series of lunch forums presented in partnership with the USC Center on Public Diplomacy and the Public Diplomacy Council.

Next month's forum, scheduled for Monday, May 4, will focus on China's investment in U.S. television.

CCLP and Sunnylands to convene media leaders in effort to counter violent extremism

By CCLP Staff | March 23, 2015 0

With Americans and Europeans leaving home to join the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, and with horrendous attacks like the recent cases in Paris and Tunisia, violent extremism is a complicated and growing issue.

The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands and the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy are teaming up with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to counter the spread of violent extremist ideologies and networks worldwide.

"Both Sunnylands and the USC Annenberg School have a longstanding interest in issues of public diplomacy and the impact of entertainment media on important problems," said Geoffrey Cowan, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands. "We look forward to working with the State Department on these issues."


Following the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) last month, the U.S. is hosting a series of roundtables to continue the dialogue on fostering economic opportunities for vulnerable communities. Sunnylands and CCLP are partnering on the Entertainment Roundtable, where CVE experts, leaders in the global entertainment and media industry, and content creators and technology experts will meet to "explore ways to counter violent ideologies and promote positive narratives," according to the State Department's website.

Dates and locations of the meetings are still to be determined.

"Countering the violent extremism that is driving today's terrorist threats and stemming its spread is a generational challenge," reads the department's website. "Lasting victories over terrorism and the violent extremist ideologies that underpin it are not found on the battlefield, but rather in mindsets, and within communities, schools, and families. The U.S. Department of State and USAID are committed to countering today's threats, and building capacity and resilience to prevent tomorrow's challenges."

The State Department and USAID are supporting a wide range of programs and initiatives to advance the themes of the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, according to the State Department's announcement. The United States will continue to advance ongoing and planned CVE efforts through robust programming and coordinated implementation totaling approximately $188 million.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Fellows say political polarization is increasing

By CCLP Staff | March 23, 2015 0

Political polarization is growing in this country, said CCLP senior fellows Matthew Dowd and Narda Zacchino at a Communication Leadership Roundtable at the new Wallis Annenberg Hall on March 23. The data, Dowd said, shows that "we're at the most polarized state that we've ever been in."

BridgingDivide1 (1).jpgLeft to right: Narda Zacchino, Matthew Dowd, Geoffrey Cowan, and Geoffrey Baum

Dowd and Zacchino were joined by CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan and CCLP advisory board members and senior fellows who were in town for a board meeting prior to the event, as well as staff and students from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

"Some of it is a natural human tendency of confirmation bias, which means we seek out information that confirms what we already believe and ignore information that makes us uncomfortable," said Dowd. "And because of our access to information now it's much more than it used to be. It's easier now for Democrats or progressives or liberals to access information that confirms their beliefs, and for conservatives or Republicans to access information that confirms their beliefs, and then what that does is increase the conflict."

Zacchino said that media has also played a large role in the widening of this divide.

"News has become less a vehicle for educating people than it is a way to advance and enhance a particular point of view," said Zacchino. "I think that's a terrible thing for democracy."


Dowd, a former political strategist who has worked for President George W. Bush, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Senator Barack Obama, said he is now "vehemently independent." He made the case that individuals can still make a difference in the national political discourse. Ultimately, Dowd told the audience of about 50 people, it is up to individuals to enact the changes in their own lives that they want to see throughout the country.

"Even though we think this is a massive country and massive society and what can we do, the power of individuals still has an unbelievable weight in this country," said Dowd. "Even if you don't agree with someone like Edward Snowden, the power of an individual to do something is incredible. I encourage everybody, especially students, to get involved in politics if you do not like the direction of what's happening in Washington or California. The only way it's going to change is if you do it differently in in a manner with which you want leadership exercised. If you advocate it won't ever change; if you want it to change, you have to do it."


Zacchino, an award-winning former political editor for the LA Times, has a new book coming out about how California coming back from the brink of being a failed state.

Dowd, a political analyst for ABC News and the founder of Paradox Capital, is co-author of the New York Times bestseller Applebee's America: How Successful Political, Business and Religious Leaders Connect with the New American Community.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

California public higher ed needs sufficient funding, Baum writes in op-ed

By CCLP Staff | March 12, 2015 0

California's public higher education segments - community colleges, California State University, and University of California - require adequate funding in order to continue the vision laid out decades ago in the state's Master Plan, according to a new op-ed in the Sacramento Bee penned by CCLP managing director and president of the California Community Colleges Board of Governors Geoffrey Baum. The article was co-written by Lou Monville, chair of the CSU Board of Trustees, and Bruce Varner, chair of the UC Board of Regents.


"Ensuring the dream of higher education is achievable for all Californians depends heavily on adequate funding for all three sectors of higher education," the state education leaders wrote. "The growing emphasis on community colleges - on the state and federal level - is a positive and welcome development. But an isolated increase in support for community colleges could be undermined by insufficient support for our other segments."

If community colleges students are unable to proceed to CSU or UC schools due to inadequate funding of those higher education institutions, it "could have detrimental consequences for California's economy, which requires increasing numbers of highly skilled workers to continue our recovery from the recession."

The Master Plan was designed in 1960 as a blueprint for the state's higher education system to ensure that high school graduates could pursue a quality, public higher education.

"The creators of the Master Plan wisely envisioned California's higher education segments as three parts of a whole," the op-ed continues. "If we want California's public higher education system to continue growing and serving the state's current needs, there must be adequate funding for all three higher education segments."

Geoffrey Baum

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Reeves exposes ugly truth of Japanese internment camps in new book

By CCLP Staff | March 9, 2015 0

CCLP senior fellow Richard Reeves examines the key causes and dire consequences of the Japanese-American internment in relocation camps during World War II in his new book, concentrating on a shortsighted military strategy and anti-Japanese sentiment following the December 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

"A day that will live in infamy," President Franklin D. Roosevelt said of the attack in asking Congress for a Declaration of War, after which the president himself signed an executive order that moved more than 120,000 Japanese, most of them American citizens, "behind barbed-wire and machine gun towers, into concentration camps spread across the most barren and hostile deserts and swamps of the country," said Reeves. "Their only crime: looking like the enemy."


Infamy: The Shocking Story of the Japanese American Internment in World War II provides an authoritative account of the incarceration of these American citizens and Japanese immigrants during the war. Men we usually consider heroes - FDR, Earl Warren, Edward R. Murrow - were in this case villains, but we also learn of many Americans who took great risks to defend the rights of the internees.

Reeves wrote the book because he doesn't want that to happen again "if the nation becomes hysterical about real or imagined threats to national security," he said. "Without knowing too much about it, I always wanted to study the incarceration of innocent Japanese-Americans in desert concentration camps during World War II. I found that what happened was far worse than I imagined. Fear, racism and raw greed drove Americans to crush thousands of lives, breaking up families and stealing property under the leadership of men as historically revered as President Roosevelt and California's attorney general, Earl Warren. Shamed, the victims of the camps refused to talk about it for decades, even as their sons served in the most decorated American combat unit in history. They do now. It happened here and it could happen again, to Muslims, to Latin Americans. I want to let people who love America and love the Constitution know that that "piece of paper," as described by Assistant Secretary of War John McCloy, was shredded in a wave of national hysteria."

Called "an engaging and comprehensive depiction of an essential, but sometimes overlooked, era of U.S. history" by Kirkus Reviews, the book tells the story of this appalling chapter in American history more powerfully than ever before.


"Reeves liberally quotes politicians, reporters and citizens, rehashing the argument that 'a Jap is a Jap' and therefore all Japanese aliens and even citizens on the West Coast needed to be removed," writes Kirkus Reviews. "Reeves includes firsthand and secondhand accounts of life inside the camps. Though Reeves' subject is an essentially bleak picture of hysterical racism...the author does a solid job of balancing the dreary passages with occasional shots of humor, humanity or both. Reeves unearths and makes public a painful national memory, but he does so while maintaining the dignity of those held behind barbed wire and unmasking the callous racism and disregard of the people who put them there."

Tom Brokaw calls the book "a detailed account of a painful and shameful period in modern American history. Infamy combines Reeves's journalist's training with his historian's eye to give us a page-turner on how hysteria at the highest levels can shatter our most fundamental rights. Brace yourself and read this very important book."

Racism, greed, xenophobia, and a thirst for revenge: a dark strand in the American character underlies this story of one of the most shameful episodes in our history. But by recovering the past, Infamy has given voice to those who ultimately helped the nation better understand the true meaning of patriotism. The book is scheduled for publication on Tuesday, April 21, by Holt, Henry & Company.

Reeves, a former New York Times and Frontline journalist, a senior lecturer at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, a syndicated columnist and an award-winning documentary filmmaker, is embarking on a national speaking tour to promote his new book, including participating on a panel at the LA Times Festival of Books at the Hancock Foundation at USC at 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 19. The panel will be moderated by Jon Wiener and look at American milestones in history. Joining Reeves on the panel will be Ed Larson and Scott Martelle. Reeves is also the biography judge for the LA Times Book Prize.

Reeves is featured in a film called "Searching for Camelot" premiering at the Garden State Film Festival on March 21. The film is about people who were living in Greenwich Village when John F. Kennedy became president. Reeves was interviewed in the film about what it was like to be in the Village in the 60s, what it was like living next door to Bob Dylan, and what it all meant (he doesn't remember).

Reeves will be giving a series of lectures at the New York Historical Society in April on the Japanese internment. C-SPAN has filmed one of his classes on long-form journalism which they will broadcast later this spring.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

LA Theatre Works to honor Geoffrey Cowan

By CCLP Staff | March 9, 2015 0

Well-known as a best-selling author, public interest lawyer, academic administrator, government official, distinguished professor, and Emmy Award-winning producer, CCLP director Geoffrey Cowan is also a notable playwright who will be honored by LA Theatre Works to celebrate their decades-long collaboration.

LATWlogo.pngCowan has worked with LA Theatre Works for 25 years on his award-winning play Top Secret: The Battle for the Pentagon Papers, which originally premiered as a radio play in 1991 in front of a live audience for national broadcast on NPR and later toured the country in 2007-8, had a five week run in New York City in 2010, and played to audiences throughout China in 2011 and 2013. The play celebrates the importance of the press, the First Amendment, and an independent judiciary. In New York and China CCLP presented "Top Secret Talks," a series of panel discussions with leading journalists, scholars and policymakers about the contemporary lessons of the Pentagon Papers story.

"Geoffrey Cowan has been a significant person in the life of LA Theatre Works since 1991, when I called him to ask a question about a constitutional issue which he answered and then let me know that he had written a play," said Susan Loewenberg, producing director for LA Theatre Works. "That casual remark turned into almost a quarter of a century of fruitful collaboration between Geoff and LATW. Geoff is truly a Renaissance man and we are honored to be honoring him."


LA Theatre Works is a non-profit media arts organization based in Los Angeles whose mission for over 25 years has been to present, preserve and disseminate classic and contemporary plays.

Co-written by Cowan and pioneering journalist and teacher Leroy Aarons, Top Secret is an inside look at the Washington Post's decision to publish a top-secret study documenting the United States' involvement in Vietnam. The subsequent trial tested the parameters of the First Amendment, pitting the public's right to know against the government's claim of secrecy. The epic legal battle between the government and the press went to the nation's highest court and is perhaps the most important Supreme Court case ever on freedom of the press.

In its review, the Associated Press called Top Secret "an engaging, well-acted, historical drama by Geoffrey Cowan and Leroy Aarons. With cloak-and-dagger intrigue, government suppression, courtroom drama and an unusual theatrical format, the play will please theater enthusiasts and history buffs alike. The 'write what you know' maxim couldn't be more apropos in this case, evidenced by Cowan and Aarons' clear presentation of the facts and splendidly nuanced dialogue, which consistently rings true."

"It has been a terrific partnership on this play," said Cowan. "I'm proud to have worked with LA Theatre Works all these years, and thrilled to celebrate the intersection of education, culture, and these important issues of free speech, free press, and independent judiciary."

In 2011, LA Theatre Works partnered with Ping Pong Productions to take the production on a 3-week tour of China. The group played to sold-out crowds in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Beijing. In June 2013 Top Secret returned to China for a second tour that the the New York Times called a "spare, fast-paced docudrama," and the New Yorker called "thrilling."

Cowan with his wife Aileen Adams at the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center

Cowan said the play started in a classroom with a course he taught on media law at UCLA, then wound up in a theatre, using the stage as a classroom. LA Theatre Works uses Top Secret and other plays to provide lessons for thousands of students in all 50 states.

The March 25 gala will include a presentation of the pivotal "Freedom of the Press" scene from the play, featuring the full cast. Ed Asner, Ed Begley, Jr., Jane Fonda, and other respected artists of stage and screen will perform excerpts from Top Secret and other plays. Visit for tickets and more information.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Cowan joins effort to increase university partnerships between California and Mexico

By CCLP Staff | March 6, 2015 0

Education leaders from Mexico and California convened last week as part of an initiative to identify key areas of research collaboration in an ongoing partnership to build sustained, strategic and equal relationships between educational institutions on both sides of the border.

University of California president Janet Napolitano and National Autonomous University of Mexico provost Eduardo Bárzana García chaired the inaugural meeting of the UC-Mexico Initiative Advisory Board. The two-day meeting was held in Ensenada, Mexico, on February 26 and 27, 2015.

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Janet Napolitano, Geoffrey Cowan, and Eduardo Bárzana García

During the meeting, scholars and experts met in breakout sessions to discuss education, energy, environment, arts and culture, and public health.

Geoffrey Cowan, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, a USC University Professor and director of the USC Annenberg Center on Communication Leadership & Policy, participated in the historic meeting as a member of the advisory board. He said the goal was to identify important scholarly collaborations on which Mexico and the University of California can work together.

"California is interdependent in so many ways with Mexico," said Cowan. "Our economies are heavily interdependent, our environment, our coastline, public health, education. These are all common issues we have, so if we can work together we can build both economies and both societies in a more dynamic way. We're going forward with major research collaborations between these countries in areas of mutual interest."

One of Sunnylands' areas of focus is the Pacific Rim with an emphasis on U.S.-Mexico relations. This effort continues work began in 2012 when Sunnylands, in partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, convened a retreat and released a report aimed at strengthening U.S.-Mexico relations. In the report, entitled A Stronger Future: Policy Recommendations for U.S.-Mexico Relations, preeminent bipartisan political, business, academic, and media leaders from the United States and Mexico concluded that the tone of the bilateral relationship should change and focus not just on a few issues, such as security and migration or trade and the economy, but instead be wide-ranging and cover a variety of mutual interests. The report presented innovative recommendations for enhancing regional competitiveness, new strategies to strengthen security, judicial reform, and furthering educational exchanges between the two nations, among other issues.

The UC-Mexico Initiative was launched in January 2014 by Napolitano and is led by UC Riverside.


Other participants in the Ensenada meeting included Monica Lozano, UC regent; Kim Wilcox, UC Riverside chancellor; Dorothy Leland, UC Merced chancellor; Gene Block, UCLA chancellor; Hunter Rawlings, president of the American Association of Universities; Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of Lumina Foundation; José Narro Robles, president of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México; Juan Manuel Ocegueda, president of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California; Enrique Cabrero, director general of Mexico's National Council of Science and Technology; Salvador Alva, president of the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Antonio Lopez de Silanes, president of the Group for Birth Studies and chairman of the board of the pharmaceutical company Grupo Silanes; Rafael Tovar y de Teresa, president of Mexico's National Council for Culture and Arts; and Jaime Valls Esponda, secretary general of ANUIES, which represents 180 higher education institutions throughout Mexico.

This post was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

California and China, a model for collaboration on climate change

By CCLP Staff | March 4, 2015 0

International leaders should build on the success of the partnership between Chinese provinces and the state of California in combating climate change, according to a new report co-authored by CCLP senior fellow Orville Schell, the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, and the Asia Society.

"The latest agreement in November 2014 between the United States and China to reduce carbon emissions will help set a new course in the effort for greater international cooperation on climate change, but states, provinces, and municipalities also have a vital role to play," reads the report, titled A Vital Partnership: California and China Collaborating on Clean Energy and Combating Climate Change.

The report was released by Schell and Geoffrey Cowan, president of the Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands, on March 4 at an Asia Society event in San Francisco. Gov. Jerry Brown and Nobel laureate and former U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu also participated in the discussion.

"In the end if the U.S. and China do come together in a meaningful way to deal with climate change, it is not going to exclusively be between Washington and Beijing," said Schell. "In fact that may be the least important link. Where the rubber will really meet the road is with states and municipalities dealing directly, so that the solution ends up being more of a patchwork, kind of a mosaic, rather than some big grand design where the presidents wave a wand in Washington and Beijing and bring about a solution. I don't think it'll happen that way. But it can happen piece by piece by piece."

CCLP senior fellow Orville Schell discusses 'A Vital Partnership,' A New Asia Society Report from Center on US-China Relations on Vimeo.

The authors of the report hope that the "unique interaction between California and China will help inspire new forms of constructive subnational efforts to address our critical transnational problems." The report summarizes the ongoing efforts between California and China that are part of a significant effort to jointly address the challenge of global climate change at the subnational level.

"Both California and China are reaping benefits from their collaborations," said Cowan. "Not only are these partnerships uncovering solutions to protect the air, water, and ecosystems within each country, but they are also catalyzing increased trade and investment in clean technology in both countries."

This report was written by CCLP project fellow Justin Chapman

Adam Powell

U.S. international broadcasters work to achieve credibility, and understanding, in the Middle East

By Adam Powell | March 3, 2015 0

WASHINGTON -- "Oh are you working for the CIA now?"

That is how Samir Nader, State Department correspondent for Radio Sawa described his friends' reaction when he joined the U.S. radio network beamed to the Middle East.

But the key to their acceptance, and their large audiences, is that they are the only full-time correspondents covering the White House, Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department in Arabic language broadcasting. So people in Iraq, Syria and neighboring countries can see and hear that they are getting the news direct from Washington. And they can see that Americans disagree -- and that U.S. society may not always be accurately reflected by Washington politicians.


Left to right: Zaid Benjamin, Washington Correspondent for Radio Sawa; Rana Abtar, Alhurra Congressional Correspondent; Samir Nader, Radio Sawa State Department Correspondent; and Scott Stearns, Voice of America's State Department correspondent

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