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May 17, 2019

Journalism, U.S.–Iranian Tensions, School Reform: RAND Weekly Recap

This week, we discuss how the digital revolution has changed the presentation of news; Europe's difficult position amid rising U.S.–Iranian tensions; the drug policy landscape in Asia; new rules for the internet; how educators feel about school improvement plans; and Russia's and China's increased engagement in the Middle East.

Newspapers and social media terms in LED display, photos by artisteer/Getty Images and phive2015/Adobe Stock

Photo by artisteer/Getty Images and phive2015/Adobe Stock

How News Has Changed in the Digital Age

The digital revolution has transformed how Americans consume the news. But how has it changed the way the news is presented? To find out, RAND conducted an empirical study of U.S. journalism in print, on television, and online. It's part of our wide-ranging exploration of “Truth Decay,” the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life.

The findings provide quantitative evidence for what Americans already see in the media: Opinion and subjectivity are more prevalent in journalism today than in the past. However, this change has been subtle, not wholesale. Journalism has not shifted from Walter Cronkite–style serious reporting to fiction or propaganda. Also, newspapers have changed the least over time, only slightly shifting from a more academic style to one that is more narrative.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq March 11, 2019, photo by Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at a news conference in Baghdad, Iraq, March 11, 2019

Photo by Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

Rising U.S.–Iranian Tensions: What Will Europe Do?

Tensions are rising between the United States and Iran, and Europe is stuck in the middle. If Europe follows America's lead, it risks torpedoing a nuclear deal it sees as essential, says RAND's Ariane Tabatabai. Europe could instead signal its commitment to the agreement, but that may alienate Washington. Whatever comes next, the stakes are high. If the deal falls through, it will increase the risk of U.S. military action to curb Iran's nuclear program.

East and Southeast Asia on a globe, photo by fpdress/Getty Images

Asia has long espoused the goal of creating a drug-free society, a goal that has been abandoned in other parts of the globe for being infeasible.

Photo by fpdress/Getty Images

A Look at Drug Policy in Asia

A new RAND report examines the illicit drug policy landscape in Asia. Some countries are shifting toward more-progressive drug policies. Others are moving in the opposite direction, taking a harder line against drugs. In China, the government faces serious obstacles to stemming the flow of fentanyl from its borders. So far, Chinese producers of this powerful opioid have been able to stay ahead of regulators.

Motion blur. Abstract technology and cyber space environment, photo by Quardia/Getty Images

Photo by Quardia/Getty Images

(More) New Rules for the Internet

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently wrote that the internet needs new rules to address harmful content, election integrity, privacy, and data portability. RAND's Daniel Gerstein agrees and asks, Why stop there? For example, ensuring that internet systems meet appropriate and up-to-date standards is also essential. The same goes for incorporating security during the design phase of a system or device.

Principal and teachers in a staff meeting, photo by asiseeit/Getty Images

Photo by asiseeit/Getty Images

What Do Educators Think About School Improvement Plans?

School improvement plans have been a central feature of school reform for more than two decades. According to a new RAND study, educators may have different views about whether these plans work. Eighty-one percent of principals say they believe that a plan will improve their school in a five-year period. Only 62 percent of teachers agree.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi at the 2017 BRICS Summit in Xiamen, China, September 5, 2017, photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Reuters/Pool

Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, and Egypt's President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi in Xiamen, China, September 5, 2017

Photo by Kenzaburo Fukuhara/Reuters/Pool

Russia and China in the Middle East: Implications for the U.S.

What's driving Russia's and China's increased activity in the Middle East? And what do these developments mean for the United States? According to recent congressional testimony by RAND's Christine Wormuth, Beijing and Moscow are pursuing different goals. And notably, neither seems interested in taking over America's security role. The United States should “focus tightly on its vital national interests in the Middle East,” she says. But policymakers should remember that having a broad vision for global competition is more important than focusing on any single region.

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