Wish you were in Paris right now? Bwog foreign correspondent Sumaiya Ahmed reports on Columbia’s big weekend in the City of Lights.

This weekend, Columbia students in Paris were treated to another sort of World Leaders Forum organized by the Columbia Alumni Association. The three day affair included Nobel laureate and 7th Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan as the keynote speaker, as well as Columbia professors Orhan Pamuk, Joseph Stiglitz, Jeffrey Sachs, David J. Helfand, and President Lee C. Bollinger.

Saturday featured a full day of panels on globalization, arts, and the media at La Bourse, the historic site of the Paris Stock Exchange. The first panel, “A Critical Look at Today’s Media” touched on a number of issues, such as how journalism has changed under the Bush administration. The moderator, Graduate School of Journalism Dean Nicholas Lemann described the current administration as “post-modernists of the right” who refuse to trust journalists, and recalled that Karl Rove had once written to a colleague that “the press is just another interest group.”

sadMichael Oreskes, Executive Editor of the International Herald Tribune, described the survival of print journalism alongside the Internet as a daily challenge. “The Internet,” Mr. Oreskes said, “is disassembling the business model.” Even though major newspapers like the New York Times are still highly profitable, great newspapers are just not economically viable models in the marketplace. The market does not care about reputation, history, or what you’ve been–“it values what it perceives your future to be,” Mr. Oreskes said. A question from the audience underlined Mr. Oreskes statement by noting that YouTube has established itself in three years and Al-Jazeera in five.

In the second panel, “A Conversation on the Arts,” Nobel laureate and professor Orhan Pamuk discussed his cultural identity and writing with Carol Becker, Dean of School of
the Arts. He pointed out the tension involved with being a writer whose cultural background can serve as a novelty for readers. “If Proust wrote about love,” Professor Pamuk said, “it would be considered universal love. If I wrote about love, it would be called Turkish love.”

When President Bollinger, the moderator for the discussion on globalization, asked whether the US still serves as a moral leader, Teachers College President Susan Fuhrman was applauded when she said that she “isn’t sure
when we were leaders. Our goal was always a missionary one. Today we have as much to learn as we have to give.” Earlier, Earth Institute director Jeffrey Sachs had said something similar: “We have very little capacity to see through the eyes of a peasant farmer,” he said, “We’re too afraid to do it.” Economics professor and Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, added that China and India are emulating America’s pattern of success. “That is a world headed for collision,” he said.

The entire event, complete with a cocktail party and three course French lunch, was very chi-chi and all free for Columbia students volunteering at the event. “It pays to be a Columbia student,” Elena Hecht, BC ‘08 said. If President Bollinger’s enthusiasm is any indication, I would imagine it pays the other way around too.