USIA uses Web and e-mail to get out its Kosovo story







When the Serbian government expelled the media from Kosovo as NATO began its
Yugoslav bombing raids last month, U.S. officials turned to the Web and a list server to
communicate with journalists.


The U.S. Information Agency is using a list server to deliver NATO and U.S. policy
information via e-mail to journalists and human rights organizations, said Jonathan
Spalter, USIA’s chief information officer.


Meanwhile, on its international Web page, the agency is using RealAudio and RealVideo
from RealNetworks of Seattle to stream audio and video statements by government officials.
For instance, the site offers streaming video of President Clinton’s March 25 address
to the Serbian people and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s live March 26
remarks in Serbian.


“We developed a unique online product targeting independent media and human rights
organizations in Kosovo when the Serbian government run by Slobodan Milosevic made it
illegal to publish and broadcast,” Spalter said.


“We’re using IT-based tools to do our work in public diplomacy,” he
said.


As the conflict has escalated, USIA has continued to use the listserv program and the
Web to get the government’s message out, he said.


USIA works with L-Soft International Inc. of Landover, Md., to maintain and distribute
mail for its list server, said Howard Cincotta, team leader for electronic media in
USIA’s Information Bureau.


“Listservs are not a new or cutting-edge technology, but it is for us the
application to use for people who have e-mail,” Cincotta said. “Our listserv is
a constant way to deliver timely information to our key audiences.”


USIA’s three webmasters use 266-MHz PCs to prepare information and then upload it
to L-Soft across a T1 connection. The company distributes the listserv mail to about 300
media and human rights organizations around the world, Cincotta said.


Since NATO began its air attacks on Serbian forces last month, the USIA listserv has
grown by about 100 recipients, Cincotta said. The agency has about 50 addresses in the
Balkans, he said.


The agency began offering the service last fall when Yugloslav President Milosevic
stepped up his government’s efforts to limit the freedom of the journalists in the
region. Since the bombings began, the government has expelled many journalists from the
country.


Initially, USIA sent out feelers to media and human rights organizations describing the
e-mail information service, Cincotta said. The agency did not use spam or
indiscriminate messages to get people to subscribe, he said.


USIA, the government’s propaganda arm, has used its international Web page, which
users can access from its home page at www.usia.gov, to report the latest information and
statements from NATO leaders.


The page includes background, international commentary, translations in seven languages
including Serbian and Albanian, and links to other government and media Web sites, Spalter
said.


USIA webmasters use WS_FTP Pro from Ipswitch Inc. of Lexington, Mass., to post files on
the site, and Netscape Navigator 4.5 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0 to preview site
pages before posting, USIA webmaster Chip Harman said.


The agency’s international Web page also contains a sound bite file for the
specific use of independent media in the Balkans, Spalter said.
             


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