At a crossroads: annual lecture series presents its spring offerings

Nancy Rivenburgh. - contributed photo
Nancy Rivenburgh.
— image credit: contributed photo

The spring Crossroads Lecture series is focused on media: news reporting; book publishing; the First Amendment and the Internet.

Nancy K. Rivenburgh will get the conversation going with “The Future of News Reporting Worldwide” on Feb. 26.

“The media do far more than act as an information source,” Rivenburgh said. “It can be used as a political catalyst, government actors use it to send messages to each other. It plays lots of different roles.”

Rivenburgh is a professor at the University of Washington. She has a BA in journalism from Stanford, a M.S. in communication from Boston University and a Ph.D. in International Communication  from UW.

Her Crossroads lecture will address the roles of media in international affairs, to what extent do media act as a catalyst for government action, and trends in international news reporting.

Rivenburgh’s primary teaching and research focus is in international political communication. She investigates the various roles of media in international relations as well as the production and character of international news. She has conducted studies in more than 40 countries.

Her research often involves multi-nation comparisons of news presentations of global events in order to understand the differences and similarities in the construction of how it is presented.

Rivenburgh’s book “Television in the Olympics” was a 25-nation comparative study of media coverage of the Barcelona Olympic Games. She has published articles in the Journal of International Communications, Media Psychology, The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Journalism Quarterly, conflict and communication, among others.

A secondary aspect of her research investigates the practice of creative problem solving using exposure to diverse experiences and perspectives as a creative catalyst. Rivenburgh investigates the ways in which community leaders and planners look to other countries and cultures for good ideas or “best practices” then translate them for use in local circumstances. She is currently working on a book that documents how this process of “social creativity” is being employed around the world to improve sustainability and quality of life in urban locales.

One common theme she has found is that every country “domesticates” its news.

“Every country portrays the world in ways that make themselves look good,” she said. “It adapts the news to a national setting. Basically, all countries do the same thing: present things in ways that positively represent who they are.”

Rivenburgh says U.S. news reporting is different from other countries in that it maintains an expansive network.

“The U.S. has more reach and accessibility to news around the world,” she said. “Other countries like Japan and Germany also have news networks – but if you compare it to the bulk of nations around the world there are more resources that go into news gathering here.”

Rivenburgh is a self-described “news junkie” whose favorite publications are the New York Times and an online news magazine called “The Week.”

What has surprised her the most during her research is that while the format for news reporting is standard across the globe, the perspective is so different.

“It is so adapted to national interest,” she said. “The sources are the same, the look is the same, the music is the same. If you were just looking at it, you’d imagine we are all getting homogenized global news. But you are absolutely not.”

Other spring lectures

Steve Kobrin will present “Books and Bits: The Future of Publishing” on March 18. His talk will delve into how relationships to books has been changed by digital communications and the internet.

David Skover will discuss “The First Amendment and the Internet: Current Dilemmas” on April 1. He will cover obscenity, privacy, libel, Wikileaks, ownership, distribution, accuracy and decency.

All lectures are held at Orcas Center at 2 p.m., followed by a question and answer period and a public reception with the speaker.

Members of the Associates Circle receive free admission to the entire 2011-12 season. Both season and individual tickets are available at, Darvill’s Bookstore and the Orcas Island Library. Complimentary tickets are available in advance through the library and senior center.

The Orcas Crossroads Lecture Series is supported by the Crossroads Associates Circle, the Orcas Island Public Library, the Friends of Orcas Island Library, the Daniel and Margaret Carper Foundation and Individual Contributors. More information is available at


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