Exchange Matters / October 25, 2022

Countering Disinformation with IVLP Exchanges

By Berenice Morlet, Program Manager, IVLP Programs, World Affairs Council of St. Louis 

Editor’s Note: Our community partner in St. Louis hosted in September 2022 an International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) on “Identifying and Combating Disinformation in the Quad,” and had the opportunity to introduce the deep journalistic tradition of their city to the IVLP visitors. The “Quad” is a diplomatic partnership between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States. The author reflects below on the value of the IVLP project, what the visitors learned about U.S. efforts in combatting disinformation, and why exchange matters.

From the very first school of journalism in the country, to our award-winning newspapers and journalism organizations, the journalistic tradition has deep roots in Missouri and St. Louis, specifically. St. Louis is home to numerous news agencies and broadcast channels along with well-regarded academic institutions that are committed to the factual representation of information and combatting mis/disinformation in the ever-changing media landscape.   

Last month, the World Affairs Council of St. Louis collaborated with Meridian International Center to host an inter-regional International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) from Australia, India, and Japan on the topic “Identifying and Combating Disinformation in the Quad.” The IVLP visitors met with a range of professional resources, including professors at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, journalists from St. Louis Public Radio, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. In addition to journalists, they met with government communications teams for the Missouri State Auditor and St. Louis County Prosecutor. They even had the opportunity to visit a city court room with the presiding Judge in St. Louis County, and talk about mis/disinformation from a socio-political point of view.  

Our professional meetings were an ideal space to share best practices, as well as different approaches to the topic, and build valuable connections. During our visit to the St. Louis City Court, the visitors from India shared that in their communities, much of the information used to develop the news is inaccurate. The visitors spoke about how the mainstream media obtains much of their information and facts from unreliable social media sources, and noted how, often, this information is not validated or confirmed, therefore news reports are created from misinformed sources.  

Through their participation in this exchange program, the visitors were able to learn about how community members in St. Louis are addressing modern challenges in news and media, while also contributing experiences and expertise from their own communities. From visiting one of the most prestigious journalism universities in the country, to having conversations with professors and deans who are encouraging and teaching the values of information and communication to the new generation, to recreating a real jury experience by sitting in a court room in front of a real judge, these invaluable experiences are ones that our visitors will never forget.  

In addition to their meetings, the participants enjoyed several activities that St. Louis and Missouri can offer to a tourist, such as a tour of the State Capitol, a visit to the Arch, and seeing a Cardinals game.  

This exchange program was a great opportunity for all partners involved. We learned from individuals from other countries who shared their perspectives on shared global challenges like mis/disinformation, and we were also able to share our own experiences with this particular topic. Given that our professional and academic backgrounds were not rooted in the topic of journalism and misinformation, this experience, hearing from our speakers, and sharing this opportunity with our participants gave more meaning to why exchange matters.

I believe the importance of exchange occurs when each participant gives you the knowledge, wisdom, and know-how that you need to create, evolve, and make a change. Our IVLP visitors, professional contacts, and affable hosts made this program a unique experience to exchange knowledge and provided an opportunity to build outstanding global relationships.