Public perception plays a critical role in the ability of the United States to achieve its foreign policy objectives in the Middle East. With tensions in the region reaching a critical point, the value of a State Department-funded program that brings international journalists to the country to learn about American culture and values could not be greater. For a seven day period in April 2007, the Maxwell School in conjunction with the Newhouse School of Communications participated in the Edward R. Murrow Program for International Journalists that brought twelve journalists from North Africa and France to campus. Representing Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and France, the journalists ranged in age from their late 20’s to mid 40’s and spent their week in Syracuse participating in a series of social, academic and professional events around the city and campus.

One of the week’s most active and influential organizers was Bill Smullen, director of the National Security Studies (NSS) program at Maxwell and a faculty member at the Newhouse school. With many people in the Middle East and North Africa critical of US foreign policy in the region, Smullen acknowledged that journalists play an especially critical role in shaping how events are perceived. “We live as much by perception as reality,” commented Smullen. It is the hope of the program coor- dinators that the visiting professionals will be exposed to US culture and values in such a way that will help break down the barriers and stereotypes that have developed over recent years.

Smullen argues that the Murrow program has the potential for building new bridges in a region of the world that is a “cauldron of interest and activity.” Not only does the Middle East play a “critical role” in the NSS program at Maxwell, but it also has “a giant impact on what goes on in the world.” After widely successful experiences hosting Murrow journalists over the last two years, many hope that the university will continue its participation in one of the most influential programs shaping foreign opinions and attitudes of the United States.