January 24, 2003

Canadian Consul Lectures on Media

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Pamela Wallin, Canadian consul general situated in New York City, gave an entertaining lecture on the parallels between media and diplomacy to a small group of students and faculty yesterday afternoon.

Wallin, who had a distinguished career in broadcast journalism before being appointed as consul general, spoke on her experiences in both fields.

“Many people do not realize how similar the roles of journalism and diplomacy are. They are both so much about fostering understanding,” Wallin said.

Wallin first addressed cable television’s all news media outlets. She cautioned that many have a vested interest in a potential war with Iraq in order to attract viewers, which can color the way information is being presented.

“You have to be a wise consumer,” Wallin said. “Today the viewer has become the programmer and must be responsible in choosing intelligent, researched news outlets. We are all the media. It is up to us to look for debate and seek it out.”

News stations can also be helpful, according to Wallin. “They initiate discussion, which is always a positive. It encourages people to participate in civic activity,” she said.

Wallin then discussed the relationship between the U.S. and Canada, especially in light of recent events.

“Geography has made us intimate neighbors, but it surprises me how superficial our understanding of each other is,” she said.

Wallin also took time to address certain myths that Americans have toward Canada. “The best way to be taken seriously is to put our best and brightest out there,” she said.

Canada, according to Wallin, has a unique position in today’s diplomatic climate. “Canada has the status of observer, an analytic ability to step back and look at the situation without self-interest,” Wallin said.

As for the stance on the current Iraq debate, Wallin said that “Canada’s position on the Iraq debate coincides with the United Nations (U.N.). If the U.N. is there, Canada will be there.” She acknowledged that the U.S. does not need Canada’s support militarily, but their support adds credibility to the cause.

Wallin peppered her lecture with anecdotes and personal experiences as well. “I really liked her use of humor and personal experience. It was very engaging and entertaining,” Shashi Bhat ’06 said.

Daniel Braun ’05, president of the Canadians at Cornell Club echoed Bhat’s sentiments and added, “The media had a large influence on the perception of current events, and diplomacy is so important in today’s society. To hear a presentation about both in combination was really interesting.”

After her lecture, Wallin held a question and answer period in which the current political situation with Iraq was discussed in more detail from both a diplomatic and journalistic perspective. In the end, Wallin engaged in lighthearted praise of Canada and its idiosyncrasies.

The presentation was hosted by the Canadians at Cornell Club and co-sponsored by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies and the Student Assembly Finance Commission.

Archived article by Emily Sketch