Interviewing David Bosco: On Being a Journalist in the 21st Century, Twitter and Teaching Politics

A teacher, a lawyer, a political analyst, a deputee director for the UN and a journalist: American-born David Bosco is an ambitious multi-tasker. Currently, he is a contributing writer at Foreign Policy and an professor of International Politics at the American University of Washington D.C. in the United States.

During his experience as a freelancer after the war in Sarajevo, Bosco marked his entrance into the world of journalism. Once back in the United States, he went on to study law at Harvard, where he continued writing at the Harvard Journal. After graduation he went on to work as an attorney in antitrust matters, but realized that law was not his calling. Instead, Bosco turned to what he had already been doing for a long time; journalism. “Fortunately, by the time I was done with college, writing was something that I did every other day, so it was vocational but also something that happened along the way.”

Despite what one may think by glancing at his extensive and impressive curriculum, David Bosco is a down-to-earth individual who is, well, not as intimidating as I thought he would be- at least not on the phone.

And so the lawyer-turned-journalist then became “the Multilateralist” for Foreign Policy. Bosco has worked at the Foreign Policy magazine as a contributing writer but also as an editor. In his blog “the Multilateralist” on the magazine website, Bosco was asked to cover a number of topics usually centered on multilateral agreements and organizations such as the United Nations. As Bosco says; “it was an outlook towards the multilateral agreements that the United States was getting involved in”. Currently, Foreign Policy is changing the format of the magazine and has placed Bosco alongside other remarkable journalists in the “Voices” category, but he has assured that, while the name of the category may have changed, his articles will continue to address the same issues.

While discussing the rise of news channels such as Al Jazeera or RT News and the way they have impacted his work as a journalist, Bosco tells me that “They have given us a different perspective”. However, Bosco goes on to stress that, while these channels have achieved a lot, it is also important to keep in mind where the information is coming from. For instance, with RT news, no matter how democratic the model is, the news is still coming from Russia, with a Russian perspective and, inevitably, with some government control.

Along the lines of government control followed the topic of Wikileaks, the NSA scandal and to what extent one would be willing to expose themselves as the price to pay for personal and national security. Echoing a thought that many are whispering, Bosco believes that “the pendulum has swung too far in surveillance“, adding also that “the US has stated that it will modify national policies on regard, but I don’t think things are going to change much overseas”. In other words, those living in the US might rejoice in having some sort of privacy restored, but those of us living elsewhere will continue to be spied on. According to the journalist, this is because “when governments have the money to do it, they will always spy on each other. That is the way it has always been and it would be foolish to think otherwise”.

Speaking about the dangers of information and privacy, I couldn’t help but ask Bosco on how he deals with big data and the overwhelming information that is available to us on the Internet. Like many changes brought on by globalization, Bosco explains how big data has had both negative and positive effects. On one hand, it has made researching a lot easier, but on the other hand we often find ourselves drowning in an overload of information and sources. “This has given us a deciding complex. The key to it is learning to process and filter information, taking into account all factors involved before deciding whether to use it or not”.

Many of the articles that Bosco has written have been about countries belonging to the African continent; UN projects, development programs and so on. Unfortunately, it has become a general cliché that “Africa does not sell”, and Bosco deems that this is mainly due to the geographic distance. Even Europe, that is still closer to Africa than the US is, is still too far away, which brings people to care less about what happens “over there”. Also, people have a tendency of lumping stories and putting them all together without differentiating them, most of the time because they lack knowledge on the various situations in Africa. “By ‘lumping’ the stories all together, even though a story is essentially different, they tend to label it as ‘just another story about Africa’.”

Among the pieces that Bosco has written about African countries, many of them are interlinked with the International Criminal Court and its criticized omnipresence in the continent. Bosco is writing a book about the ICC. Experts believe that the ICC is focusing too much on Africa, an issue that has earned the ICC a bad reputation by most. When asked about his opinion on the matter, Bosco replied “it is difficult to say the court is biased when, in reality, it is responding to the requests from the African states themselves”. Having said that, he later went on to agree that the ICC has been conveniently overlooking problems in outer countries that are strategically or geopolitically delicate, probably because of the interests of the major powers.

Another institution that has lost popularity has been CNN, which has suffered an alarming decrease in audience. As Bosco says “back in the day CNN was the only game in town whereas now things have changed“.  There are many competing sources that have multiplied over the years, such as Fox or ABC in the US, and this has made it harder for some channels to finance themselves. This, however, is not particularly a problem that Foreign Policy is having as it is so unique in its kind.

As he is one of my primary news sources, I couldn’t help but ask him what his main news sources were, and a slightly embarrassed Bosco laughed and told me that it was the almighty Twitter. Twitter is the fastest and most concrete way to get news in the 21st century.  But what Bosco prefers most about Twitter is that it allows him to personalize his news by following people who share the same fields of interests that he does. “I get the information I want and I also get the chance to select it. It’s a great newsfeed on the things that you are interested about”.

As my favorite journalist and, well, a little of an idol, I asked Bosco if he believed that in order to be a good journalist one also has to be a good person. Although slightly doubtful about the connection between the two concepts, Bosco told me that he was very critical about objectivity. In fact, Bosco confessed that he is unsure about whether a person can be completely objective. However, he also added that “I think journalists should try to stay fair-minded and portray as many perspectives, while readers also have to be aware of daily bias”.

Between working for as an international arbitration lawyer and being a deputy director of a joint UN-NATO project on refugee repatriation in Sarajevo, David Bosco is a man who has known challenge. So what does a man like himself consider as the biggest challenge in his work?

His work as a teacher.

Bosco works at the American University in Washington D.C. as an International Politics professor. The part that he feels is most difficult about his job is trying to make his pupils understand the different perspectives on politics that differ from the US perspective. As the interview came to an end and, expressing a dilemma that most people studying politics experience, Bosco confessed that “I want to help them [my students] understand the complexity of politics without leading them to despair”. 

Chiara Romano Bosch.

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