Public diplomacy is “not preaching and teaching,” Under Secretary of State Tara Sonenshine told VOA’s Urdu language program Café DC on Friday.
Sonenshine, who sat down for a friendly half-hour chat with Café DC host Faiz Rehman, said she still thinks like a journalist in her new job as Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
Sonenshine, who took the post at State in April, began her communications career as a journalist for ABC television. She says, “once a journalist, always a journalist…your mind is always trained to listen very closely as journalists do, and to think very carefully about your sources and your story.”
Asked about her thoughts on how best to get information to different countries around the world, the Under Secretary says there is no “one size fits all approach,” it’s important, she says, to “look at our international broadcasting strategies and what makes sense region to region.” Sonenshine is a key player in US international broadcasting and is the Secretary of State’s delegate to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees VOA and other international stations.
When it comes to public diplomacy, Sonenshine says she takes a “show-and-tell” approach. “We tell who we are and what we stand for in our principles, our openness, our tolerance, our pluralism, and our democratic values. We also show who we are, and what we are, by the work we do.”
Sonenshine doesn’t think of diplomacy in terms of “winning hearts and minds,” it’s more about “collaboration, cooperation, dialogue, discussion, and the show-and-tell approach… We have our core principles, and our core values and we uphold them, and we demonstrate them and we talk about them,” she says.
Café DC premiered earlier this year with a relaxed and friendly look at some of the people making headlines around Washington. The 20 minute show is available on the VOA Urdu Service website, YouTube, and a shorter edition is aired on the popular VOA TV program, Beyond the Headlines, which is broadcast in Urdu on Express TV, Pakistan’s 2nd largest cable network.
In addition to television, VOA’s Urdu Service has a dynamic full service website and broadcasts 13 hours of radio programming daily.