About the Author: Nicole Thompson serves as a Press Officer in the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Public Affairs.
For most of us, up-to-the minute news and information are readily obtainable via television, the Internet, newspapers and magazines. Creating an atmosphere that allows the press access to information is a 24-hour job. During this month’s G-20 Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy, the U.S. Department of State faced the often daunting task of transforming the rambling Harry S Truman building into a modern press filing center capable of feeding, transporting and supplying the technological needs of close to 1,600 international journalists. It was nothing less than amazing to watch the G-20’s international filing center grow from a flurry of ideas, meetings, spreadsheets and emails into a functioning reality. In the days leading up to the Summit, teams of workers descended upon the State Department’s open spaces and halls, filling them with row after row of bench-style tables and sturdy chairs. Right behind them (and sometimes right on top of them) were technical specialists measuring, drilling and taping hundreds of feet of optical cables and installing high-tech flat-panel monitors and audio equipment.
Though the State Department’s headquarters was not built to house thousands of journalists, quick and creative thinking transformed the building’s large cafeteria and exhibit hall into over 600 individual workspaces, each with wireless Internet connectivity and a telephone. Manning the filing center required raising a small army of workers and volunteers. When asked, employees of the State Department answered the call to serve as hosts to the world’s press. Hundreds of Diplomatic Security officers, cafeteria workers, office managers, foreign language specialists and others worked around the clock to get the center up and running and keep it staffed throughout the weekend of the summit. Having such a broad variety of manpower was key to keeping things running smoothly. In order to accommodate time zone differences during a globally covered event, journalists often work late hours to file stories and video to be run during prime time in their home countries. This is where having a patient and broadly skilled volunteer force really came into play. Just imagine a non-English-speaking journalist requesting an interview or trying to figure out why she has no laptop connectivity at 2:00 a.m.! Luckily, the State Department has quite a few talented and multi-lingual employees who can come to the rescue in such a situation.
Bringing together leaders from the world’s 20 largest economies required the close cooperation of hundreds of individuals from federal agencies, embassies and foreign ministries, but it’s the media that provides the rest of the world a view of our decision makers’ actions. This is only a glimpse of how the State Department helps ensure that audiences around the globe receive timely news and information. You, as an active blog reader or contributor, are a part of the modern evolution of media and news coverage. I’m very curious to hear DipNote’s readers’ thoughts on the G-20 financial summit. What’s your say?