New SGIS partnership with National Endowment for Democracy kicks off with DC event

Dec 14,  2016

Free and independent media reporting across the world was the focus for a School of Global and International Studies kickoff event with the National Endowment for Democracy on Dec. 1 and is part of the focus for a new partnership between SGIS and NED.

The new SGIS and NED relationship launched at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center with the panel discussion "Democracy and the Media Challenge in the 21st Century," considering issues central to the partnership that specifically involves the NED’s Center for International Media Assistance. A near-capacity crowd filled the room for the discussion led by Dana Priest, Washington Post investigative reporter and Knight Chair of Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Maryland. 

The partnership establishes the Mark Helmke Postdoctoral Scholarship on Global Media, Development and Democracy, a postdoctoral position intended for a scholar whose expertise is in developing international independent media, as well as multiple internship opportunities for School of Global and International Studies students. The position is named for the late Mark Helmke, longtime press secretary to Sen. Lugar, former communications director for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and former journalist for the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Helmke was known for his work in democracy projects in Latin America, the Philippines and post-Soviet Ukraine, as well as working to bring down apartheid in South Africa. Helmke wrote the legislation that authorized the Center for International Media Assistance.

“Being able to honor him with the creation of this new joint initiative of NED and Indiana University is a source of profound satisfaction to everyone who knew Mark and loved Mark and who wants to remember him by carrying forward work that he cared for so deeply,” said Carl Gerstman, president of the National Endowment for Democracy.

“This ongoing work is a testament to Mark Helmke’s legacy,” said former Sen. Richard Lugar, now distinguished scholar at SGIS. “I am so pleased that the School of Global and International Studies at Indiana University under the leadership of Dean Lee Feinstein has partnered with CIMA to create the Mark Helmke post-doctoral scholarship in global media development in democracy.”

During the two-year appointment, the Helmke Scholar will develop deeper understanding of the challenges facing countries trying to create sustainable independent media and help provide practical solutions for policymakers, political reformers and international donors.

The first Helmke Scholar Elizabeth Stein was part of the panel discussion and offered insight into the work she’s doing during her appointment. She said she’s trying to help develop a measure of media freedom that can be used in analyzing countries around the world. “I’m going to focus on trying to identify who owns the media and then if I can find patterns of the countries that are problematic and find correlates,” Stein said. “We can identify what the problems are so that all you policymakers can better target policies toward improving media independence. I’ll consider that a success.”

SGIS Dean Lee Feinstein said the partnership and the scholarship it will bring to bear couldn’t be more important than now. He added that aside from the postdoctoral position, which will split time between Bloomington and the NED headquarters in Washington, the relationship will mean another pathway for SGIS students to gain experience. “We’re very pleased that we’re establishing an opportunity to channel some of our talented students from the School of Global and International Studies to work as interns in the Washington office of NED and overseas with some of NED’s grantees,” Feinstein said. “It will be a great opportunity for all of them.”

The panel discussion included Stein as well as Paul Helmke, director of the Civic Leaders Center, professor of practice at the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs and brother of Mark Helmke; and Jeanne Bourgault, president and CEO of Internews, an international nonprofit organization that promotes improving the quality of news and information reported by media around the world. Full video of the panel is online here.

An initiative of the National Endowment for Democracy, the Center for International Media Assistance is a research and knowledge platform whose mission is to improve the effectiveness of media development around the world. The center convenes donors, implementers, academics and other stakeholders in the media development community. It coordinates working groups and discussions, and it commissions reports and commentary on issues critical to the field.