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Hi Magazine
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There was a guy on C-Span this morning, the publisher of the new Hi Magazine, an Arabic magazine sponsored by the U.S. State Department, meant to inform and educate the Arab world about our lifestyle and values.

Here's the on-line version of Hi (note how the scrollbar is on the left-hand that's cultural sensitivity).

Anyway, at first I thought the guy seemed reasonably personable and sensible. But then the moderator and callers started grilling him on the expense of the magazine, how the advertising revenue worked, and so on, and the guy got more and more weasel-like.

He paused for a few seconds when asked for the amount of money the State Department gives them each year, before saying, "Four million dollars. I think." When the moderator asked how much of that is spent on the production of the magazine, he said he didn't understand the question. When a caller asked if money made on advertising was being reimbursed to the State Department to mitigate the cost of the magazine he answered, "The advertising is a separate contract, so I don't know about that." Uh-huh. When asked about his background he said "I'm with the Magazine Group, which has been publishing a variety of magazines for over 22 years." Gee, that tells me a lot about you, pal.

I generally don't fall prey to paranoia, but this guy stunk. I don't think it's massively nefarious or anything. I just think he got a sweet plum of a contract from the U.S government, and he doesn't like talking about the money side. It is, however, something produced with our tax dollars, so we have a right to know how that money is being spent.

Now, regarding the concept of the magazine, I don't necessarily think it's a bad idea. I don't have a problem with our State Department promoting our image overseas, trying to facilitate understanding and improve diplomatic relationships...that's what they're for.

Lots of people called in accusing the guy of producing propaganda. But governments from all countries produce promotional material. This one is just aimed at Arab newstands and search engines.

But the guy did seem like a weasel. And as a co-worker pointed out to me, "Hi Magazine" sounds a little like a mag for weed smokers.

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