WPI journalists recount impressions of America

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Nine international journalists spoke about their impressions of the United States, its media and culture at a panel discussion sponsored by the World Press Institute (WPI) on Tuesday in John B. Davis lecture hall. A large crowd attended the event, despite the first winter weather of the season raging outside. The panel, entitled “What’s News” marked the end of a four month stint in the U.S. for the journalists named as this year’s WPI fellows. The session began with a short presentation from each journalist about what stood out to them during their time in the U.S., followed by a question and answer session. The fellows discussed topics ranging from prison conditions in the U.S., to the volunteerism of its people to intelligent design. Minnesota Public Radio’s Cathy Wurzer moderated the event.

The journalists, Danila Tuchel from Romania, Teodora Vassileva from Bulgaria, Anne Jambora from the Phillepines, Tang Ju from China, Daniel Cavero from Peru, Pilar Conci from Argentina, Raj Kumar K.C. from Nepal, Mathias Bernard from Austria and Raphael Gomide from Brazil, ranged from editors of daily papers to television news reporters.

Many said they were impressed with the diversity present in the U.S. and the spirit of volunteerism shared by its people.

“Before I came, I had a feeling that people would be very tough, very arrogant,” Kumar said, reflecting on his first time in the U.S..

Gomide, who won an award from Amnesty International last year for human rights journalism, said he noticed that many people he met were committed to making the U.S. a better place, but at the same time noticed that racial tension is so prevalent here that it has led to the creation of “two cultures within the same country.”

Jambora, also on her first visit to the U.S., said she noticed intense patriotism, which she said does not really exist in the Philippines.

“America, despite its diverse political beliefs, is dedicated to coming together for the betterment of the U.S.,” she said.

As journalists, many were keenly aware of the position of the media in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Bernard, who works at the world’s oldest newspaper, remarked on the challenges newspapers face in era increasingly dominated by Internet news sources. He noted that while Internet sources are able to disseminate more information faster, the amount of common knowledge people have is shrinking.

“[Information is moving] from a one way track to a two way track,” he said. “People share less information and the amount of common knowledge is declining. It gets very difficult to discU.S.s and be together.”

Cavero, who works at a “small, but serioU.S. tabloid” in Peru, noted the amount of money, time and technology that the U.S. media can devote to covering stories.

“Here in this country, people are very lucky,” he said. “I would love to have the resources to send a reporter to every country. You are lucky you have stories available first hand by Americans and for Americans.”

He said he has to devote much of his time to translating news in English for a Peruvian audience.

The event, which coincided with Governor Tim Pawlenty’s visit to China, prompted a question from an audience member to Tang about relations between the U.S. and China.

“Increased trade can bring down prices,” she said. “As consumers, you will benefit from this kind of thing. It can also increase knowledge. We know so little about each other.