The Faculty House, site of Harriman Institute session, located on the Columbia University campus.

Cox Center Researchers Attend Harriman Institute Session At Columbia University

University of Georgia researchers told a gathering of experts at the Harriman Institute of Columbia University in early March that they began their investigation of press freedom indicators as skeptics but became confident in the measures as their work progressed.

Dr. Lee B. Becker and Dr. Tudor Vlad, director and associate director of the Cox International Center, were participating in a two-day discussion of the politics of ratings and rankings of countries conducted by a variety of organizations around the world.

Their focal point was the ratings of press freedom by Freedom House of New York and Reporters Without Borders of Paris and of media sustainability by the International Research and Exchanges Board of Washington.

These nongovernmental organizations examine, rate and rank the media yearly, and their assessments are used by foundations and governments around the world interested in improving the media and by academic researchers interested in studying media freedom.

Drs. Becker and Vlad have been conducting research on the merits of these indicators for more than 10 years.

The team did have its concerns with the existing measures. They said the measures focus on constraints on the media imposed by governments more than on market forces. They also said indicators need to be modified to reflect the changing media environment, where much of what is important is communicated outside the traditional media.

The gathering, at the Faculty House on the Columbia University campus, was attended by an invited group of scholars looking at credit ratings, state fragility, corruption and transparency, democracy, and other similar indicators.

All of the participants have been invited to contribute their work to a forthcoming chapter on the Emerging Politics of International Ratings and Rankings. Dr. Alexander Cooley of Barnard College and Dr. Jack Snyder of Columbia University, associated with the Harriman Institute, will edit the volume.

The James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The meeting began with a dinner for participants on Feb 29 and ended the next day.

The Harriman Institute was founded as the Russian Institute in 1946 and was the first academic center in the United States devoted to the interdisciplinary study of Russia and the Soviet Union.

In 1982, the Russian Institute became the W. Averell Harriman Institute for the Advanced Study of the Soviet Union, in recognition of the politician, business leader and diplomat. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Institute adopted the name of the Harriman Institute.