Behind the Scenes With Foreign Journalists in Texas

Posted by Babs Chase
March 3, 2008
Foreign Press Visit Texas

Babs Chase serves as a Program Officer for the State Department's Foreign Press Center.Saturday, March 1, 2008

The State Department’s Foreign Press Center (FPC) is mandated to help foreign journalists better understand the U.S. government and American culture and society so their coverage of events in the United States is more accurate and thorough. To accomplish this, we arrange "reporting tours" that bring foreign media to the United States to write on a specific topic, and during the tour put them into contact with government and private sector decision opinion leaders who are knowledgeable in that area. Our latest tour is bringing 25 media from around the globe to visit the U.S. on a reporting tour themed "How Americans Vote: The Processes and Issues Surrounding the 2008 Presidential Elections."

Participants are nominated for these tours by their Embassies on a variety of criteria that are set for each trip. The Foreign Press Center team reviews the applicants paying close attention to the credentials of the journalist, the reach of the publication and the influence in the country. For this trip, we requested mid-career political print and radio reporters and columnists who must be fluent in English and have a working knowledge of the U.S. political system. There are some tours that include journalists who require translators, but a trip of this size is unique and does not allow for that option.

The State Department covers all costs associated with the trip, including airfare, lodging, and meals. The FPC received over 50 strong nominees for this trip, and we finalized on the top 23 for final participation. This is quite an investment by the State Department, but the long-term influence and reach of providing this access to the journalists can make a difference that does not have a price.

We are embarking on an adventure to the Lone Star State with this group of 23 journalists representing 22 countries from all over the world. Our journey begins with the Texas primaries in Austin where we will do our best to share with these journalists the democracy that makes this country so great. Never in a million years would we think that the primary would continue to be as exciting as it is this long into the process.

After "Super Tuesday #2," we will travel to Houston and Laredo to learn more about the issues that will face those striving to be the next commander in chief. In Houston, we will visit with the Mayor and other community and industry leaders to learn more about that city’s views on the economy and healthcare. We will proceed from there to Laredo to get a first-hand look at immigration from those who reside in a border town living this issue and both sides of the debate on a daily basis.

I am honored to have the chance to follow both sides of this exciting election so closely, but, more importantly, to view it not just through my own eyes, but through the eyes of the inquisitive foreign journalists traveling with us.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A jet-lagged but excited group arrived for our first meeting today anxious to get started and learn more about the week ahead. After the general housekeeping items, we gave them a chance to tell us why they were interested in this trip and what they hope to learn from their time here. The range of individuals and their experiences are vastly different and will make for an interesting group.

Many of our journalists have traveled through this country on business or for education numerous times, but there are also several for whom this is the first trip to the United States. For them, we not only have the privilege of welcoming them to Texas but also the honor of showing them what makes America great.

The journalists expressed the most interest in understanding the political process and following the key issues facing the candidates. Immigration and U.S. policy to their homelands were common themes as well as getting to know U.S. residents from their respective countries. One of the most telling remarks was when a journalist inquired about what she could write ----she is so accustomed to censorship that she could not understand the freedom we give her to tell the true story she sees from her briefings and experiences. It surprised her that we will not only expose them to all angles of an issue but also let them make their own conclusions.

The reporter from Poland was most intrigued with talking to the citizens to learn what makes them decide who to support—is it the charisma and personality of the candidate or the stance on the issues? What makes them get out and support not just with a vote but with their time and financial resources?

Several, especially those from Eastern Europe, have been happy with the relationship their countries have had with the Bush Administration and are hopeful that the new Administration will carry on these positive efforts. Also, the war in Iraq and terrorism were mentioned as issues of concern, but the other issues were more prevalent in the group discussions.

The reporter from Singapore was fabulous as she expressed her interest in the elections, she honestly admitted that she is most excited about an opportunity to attend the Houston Rodeo and see this true slice of Americana.

Many were excited about the elections from the Democratic side because they offer a chance for firsts—whether it will be the first woman or the first African-American—they see a chance for the leader of the most powerful nation in the world to change so much more than a government.

The group went to Stubbs Restaurant for a down home Southern Gospel brunch and stuffed themselves with biscuits and gravy and beef brisket while experiencing some amazing Texas music. Karen Hughes, former Under Secretary of Public Diplomacy for the Department of State, joined the group for lunch. Afterwards she took the time to speak and answer many of their questions regarding her time with the Administration. She is an amazing woman, taking the time with each to help them understand everything-from her stance on the 2008 elections to the progress of the Iraq war and her unwavering support of President Bush.

The political process in America is so transparent that we often take for granted that everyone understands how to get involved in high school or college with the political party or candidate of their choice. We have no fear of further social or career detriment if we put a bumper sticker on our car, spend a Saturday passing out campaign literature or attend a candidate rally.

The interest in this election around the world is like nothing I’ve seen in my short 15 years in the political world. We forget that standing in line for an hour to vote in a primary is not a burden, but rather a privilege that so many would give everything to do just once

I visited for awhile with our Egyptian journalist while walking through the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library discussing his desire to learn more about the basic grassroots organization so crucial to our democracy but so foreign to theirs. Hopefully our time on Tuesday with the Annette Strauss Institute for Civil Participation will give him some ideas to share with his audience about how everyone-especially the youth of a nation- can get involved, make a difference and become the next generation of leadership by realizing the power of their voice and their vote.

We will begin our day tomorrow with the Texas Secretary of State then spend the afternoon with the key professors of public and political affairs at the University of Texas. Until then!

Comments

Comments

Syrian P.
|
Syria
March 4, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

But Americans no longer vote, it is too cumbersome and outdated, Diebold do that nowadays, the voting machines arrives at the poling booth already conveniently pre-programmed and there is no paper trail to mess with, pollute the environment and cities landfills. The new 2008 voting machine Model Diebold-WINALL XL7 comes already programmed. Really nifty high tech gadget, been told it is already programmed for 99.8% for McCain, that is awesome, just one percentage point higher than the famed Syrian Voting machine which is mechanically malfunctioned in 1963 and still to this day stuck on 99.7 %. Assad should get a Diebold XL7.

Ioannis
|
Greece
March 4, 2008

Ioannis in Greece writes:

Some months ago, the Blog posted a very interesting "debate" concerning the Warner's video promoting traveling to U.S.. One of the most important notes in the State"s bloger arguments was that statistics has proved that people who have already visited America are more likely and willing to understand the "real truth of the ocean"s journey".

They understand more easily that people on the other side of the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean are not "UFO's", but part of the Modern Civilized World. Through the "journey" they discover that U.S. citizens are hospitable, ordinary, hard working, peaceful and decent human beings who love Democracy and the rest of the world.

Of course, this also counts for foreign journalists too. Even more. Because they are the "gatekeepers" who can promote the real truth about the States.

No matter the cost, this is a great program.

My opinion is to expand it more.

John
|
Michigan, USA
March 5, 2008

John in Michigan writes:

I'm truly surprised at how uninformed SNP from Syria really is. If he had truly been observing American politics, both 2000 and 2004 elections were extremely close with certain votes (electoral college votes vs. popular) and states (Ohio and Florida) having more say than in times past. Truly, the whole country was at the edge of their seats because both elections were so unpredictable. We've never, ever had an election in this country where anyone has won 90% in a presidential election. But, it doesn't hurt to fantasize though.

Zharkov
|
United States
March 5, 2008

Zharkov in the U.S.A. writes:

The journalists should also tour New Hampshire where Ron Paul initially received zero votes before the county officials changed their mind and gave him a few, and then Harlem, where Obama received zero votes, or perhaps Washington State, where military ballots were "accidentally" sent out too late to count, other ballots remained "misplaced" until after the election so their current governor received fewer votes than the losing candidate.

Perhaps they should learn how elite Democrat "super delegates" can disregard the popular vote and install any candidate of their own choosing. Maybe they should ask Ted Kennedy to explain how JFK "won" in Chicago.

Another good lesson might be to explain to them about how various presidential executive orders operate in the event martial law is declared as a result of widespread protest over bogus vote counts, or bad FEMA management, or maybe collapse of the housing market and banking sector.

Perhaps the foreign journalists can better understand how censorship works in American government by reading the Pentagon Papers and subsequent attempts to prosecute the whistleblower, or the frolic and subsequent coverup at Abu Ghraib, or the coverup of Pat Tillman's death, or the many other outrageous embarrassments which continue to plague this nearly secret society we call "government" in which all mistakes are denied until proven by journalists beyond any reasonable doubt.

Ioannis
|
Greece
March 5, 2008

Ioannis in Greece writes:

@ SNP in Syria -- I do not clearly understand what you are talking about. Please, become more specific, if you can, as well as if you have something serious to say.

However, I feel that you understand that there is only 1 (one) nation in the world that never had a dictatorship, or a kind of dictatorship like "Kings". The U.S.

And it's not expected! It's unexpected to happen there.

Who told you that Americans do not vote?

They do!

And they do this more democratically than plenty other nations like Russia and many other countries in the "East" or the near "East".

By the way, can you tell us when women began voting in Syria?

Ronald
|
New York, USA
March 5, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Wow! Babs Chase?... I really thought it was Karen Hughes! I recall the Welcome to the U.S.A. project by Disney Corp. I hope America gets real soon, or we will replicate decades of delusion at State.

Ioannis
|
Greece
March 5, 2008

Ioannis in Greece writes:

@ Ronald in New York -- Ronald, are you a Canadian living in the Big Apple?

According to my opinion, both Babs Chase and Karen Hughes have done an EXCELLENT work. This is REAL pure, intelligent diplomacy and projects that can help the image of the U.S.

Only this way America can fight Anti-American propaganda. By showing its REAL face: The truth about the States.

Except if you care more about... river falls. Do you?

I am not sure about this, but I had the impression that Mrs Hughes handed in her resignation due to some Anti-American people who could not understand that a river has always... two sides.

If she did so, she shouldn't. She had a great idea. Who cares about the fishes?

Syrian P.
|
Syria
March 5, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@John in Michigan -- The whole country was at the edge of their seats because both elections were so unpredictable...

I can assure you that SNP members were standing on their seats during the 2000 election and biting nails during the 2004 election. It is unfortunate that the ending for the great anticipation will be something like Vermont towns are passing on the ballots, an impeachment and 60,000 pages of interrogatories that have to be answered under oath. Shames and disappointments, still very dim hope in this struggle. Donãt think W had it planned this way, someone, or few, had him setup and framed most likely. Unfortunately he will get the wrap for all the others.

@Ionnis in Greece -- Go back to elementary school and read your history books. But I will be polite this time, maybe you are a Pole not a Greek, although doubtful an educated Greek will ask this question; Syrian women had the right to vote and rule from the dawn of time, before Greece was even a State, before Alexander was ordered to cease Syria. They have ruled in Syria and have even marshaled armies against Rome, when Greece was just a pedophile resource for the Romans. Syrian artifacts and Arts have shown women with bare nudity, in fact have highlighted female private parts in the arts.

Fortunately, unlike under today Moslem pseudo-leadership (cowards with no dignity and no honor), Islam did not have much of a chance at suppressing Syrian women. There were no head covering required (Turks, Khazars, Ammonite Moslem Brotherhoods forced that on women). Under Islam, Syria was ruled by great progressive Islamic leadership of Khalifa Muwaiya and his son Yazid (Sallah Allah Alieh Wasallam) and fortunately to Syrian women and the Moslems at large, after humiliatingly defeating some Moslems who mounted an insurrection to install a hereditary, strict and typically oppressive Islamic Ammonite dictatorship in Syria, they formed the Umayyad Dynasty that have ruled in glory of freedom, science, culture, respect for women all the way to Andalusia, Spain for hundreds of years, while Greece and the whole of Europe was living under shear evil and diabolic tyranny of the Christian Emperor and his Churches that made use of all of Greece has to offer, just like the Romans did.

One dark spot in history of women voting right in Syria, was under the French Mandates, who banned women from voting in Syria and accepted what is so called the Sharia law of Islam (as a mean to weaken the nation). For the past 40 years Syria was blessed by the leadership of the Assad clans who thankfully disregarded the Sharia and the Sunni Moslem installed Baathist system and offered Syrian women freedom that to this day is not paralleled in fake Western Democracies. Many today serves in Ministerial and other high level positions in Government, Science, Social and Cultural institutions.

Ioannis
|
Greece
March 10, 2008

Ioannis in Greece writes:

@ SNP in Syria -- Either relax my dear friend or I will think that I'm debating with a "single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)".

No problem, anyway.

You are right, I'm not good in "ancient" history, however I do my homework in the elementary concerning Modern History.

Thank you very much Sir, for being polite (this time), because I understand that you would love to call me some names as well as the whole western world and of course the U.S. and "our churches". Obviously, except yours, which I am sure that you think that is the only one that can lead a "Holy War""driving" us to the "original paradise".

I strongly respect your religion as well as as any other religion. But if you want me to do so you should also respect all other religions, even someone's right to believe in nothing. Unfortunately, you are religiously provocative.

Nevertheless, in case you will now decide to call us some names (again, cause you have already done it... in your way), I remind you that you will have to choose a national language concerning the "bad names", between Arabic, Armenian, Circassian, Kurdish, Aramaic, French (I suspect you are a native French speaker). And I understand that this is too difficult for you, I mean to pick up a national ID.

Let's not talk about the Greeks, since you talk too much, but you say "very little and cheap" as you did concerning the voting system in the U.S.A. You think that you will write your little ego-religious history... You will not!

You call us Greeks- pedophiles, but unfortunately for your big ego (read the post in the Blog concerning Trafficking in Persons & Trafficking in Persons Report 2007) your country is a Tier 3 unable to fully comply with the MINIMUM standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so. So you are the pedophiles in the Modern History. You are a part of some countries that still support modern slavery without respecting human dignity.

Syria "left" the League of Nations mandate under French administration ONLY on April the 17th , 1946, and you had YOUR FIRST CONSTITUTION on March 13, 1973. Your legal system is based on a combination of French and Ottoman civil law; Islamic law is used in the family court system;

You guys have not yet accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction; and you have the audacity to call Greeks and U.S. citizens uncivilized, lucking Democracy?

Go and fetch your friends, (Egyptians or the Hizballah) for help, because YOU are the Pole. (I do not understand what is the Pole you are referring to)

I believe in Nat King Cole.

I believe in Freedom.

You guys may be good in putting bombs, but "bloody" amateurs when the debate is civilized, based on arguments.

John
|
Greece
March 10, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Ioannis in Greece -- Come on Ioannis!

Don't talk with SNP. He is illiterate.

What SNP stands for? Syria National Party? ...We write with our names here. How can I understand what is SNP?

Someone paid him to make Anti-American propaganda through the Blog and he thought like hitting all the World. They gave him an inch and he believes that can have a mile.

He calls Greeks pedophiles...

He says that the U.S. election system is not fair...

He is trying to persuade us that the next U.S. President is already "pre-decided"...

His thoughts are both funny and sad. He hates the United States of America, but the worst, he hates arguments, dialogue and civilized debating.

And this time, this is me, I am trying to "be polite" too.

I do not know if you are a Greek or what, but have you ever been to Syria?

You will understand in depth what REAL TRAFFICKING is.

They even offer "sex-catalogues".

Mysteriously, SNP cannot "see" what is near him, but also mysteriously, he is "talented" enough to know what happens "overseas"!

Mysteriously, SNP does not like McCain, too!

OBVIOUSLY SNP hates all the globe..., but the sheikhs.

Syrian P.
|
Syria
March 11, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@ Greece El Greco's -- Your info list below is entirely flawed, LOL, That 73 war was so traumatic to Jews in Israel they only know Syriaãs history from Hafez Assad rule. He sure dealt effectively with low life. Really pity that Basel passed away before he ruled, very sad indeed for SNP and Syria.

Syria modern period constitution was in 1945, before that miserable people in Palestine had a State, a hole in the wall, still is warring on all sides, and loosing to armed gangs.
Syria was an initial founding member of the United Nation.

Syrians do not involve in trafficking in persons or sex slavery. Sex Business is booming in Syria not by Syrians but Iraqis, Kurds and Palestinians, millions are refugee in Syria fleeing Jewish war crimes and horrific Jewish Genocides similar to the one carried out in Russia by Jewish maniac Joseph David Djugashvili (Stalin). Unlike Khazar-Jews from the steppe of Asia we Syrians are noble, honorable, people and do not use the service nor deal with any of these culprits or victims. Jewish pimps and American sponsored prostitution rings and their underdogs the Kurds are the one managing the illicit business, Moslem Bedouin of Arabia are the clients and daily customers, this say a lot about the integrity of Moslems that. Have no honor and no dignity just like the god they worship.

No one paid SNP. We strongly support the United States of America, according to its Constitution and the principals of its founding that is, not according to the currently passed AIPAC unconstitutional system that been in operation since 2001.

McCain is the next President of the United States and we strongly support him. Who needs a bandage for 8-16 years after all this hemorrhage? I understand as Israeli, you wants weakling Clinton in, she is more likely to accept inserting the chip in the right hands of Americans that the Israeli company already stockpiling. Keep banging on your NYT for more rubbish on him and Obama.

Have some dignity, don't pose as Greeks.

John
|
Greece
March 11, 2008

John in Greece writes:

kala krasa! (I do not understand a thing TIER3), as we say in Greece, you "have made the whole thing a salad".

By the way, Ioannis's elements (details) are absolutely accurate.
I visited http://www.state.gov/g/tip/rls/tiprpt/2007/82802.htm and for sure you are

Tier 3 like all the rest countries

ALGERIA EQUATORIAL GUINEA NORTH KOREA SUDAN
BAHRAIN IRAN OMAN SYRIA
BURMA KUWAIT QATAR UZBEKISTAN
CUBA MALAYSIA SAUDI ARABIA VENEZUELA

...Among others, he wrote to you accurately.

However, my dear "pro-American" friend you say (like... the snake prepared to bite):

"...not according to the currently passed AIPAC unconstitutional system that been in operation since 2001."

Why don't you apply to control the political system in the USA?

I am sure that Americans expect YOU to offer ?pure middle east Democracy?.

Concerning the religion questions you make in your way: We are not obliged to give a religious id to none. Especially you that you are attempting to make the Blog a "church".
But if this makes you happy, I am a Christian (Orthodox). Paradoxically, I do not hate the Jews. On the contrary, I like the guys. They have done nothing to me.
What are you SNP? What SNP stands for? What's your "church" man?

Syrian P.
|
Syria
March 12, 2008

SNP in Syria writes:

@ John in Greece -- Our Church? LOL. ahhh, let me think, Church of the latter day Prochrist. We have many common practices with Christianity. We have flesh eating sacrament, drink blood, we also worship Jews or a Jew as god, one that walked on water and fed 4000 person on the mount with one loaf of bread. But we are upset that he did not invent electricity and penicillin so we think the father, mother and in-laws are upset and will not let him come back to save man and egotistically rules them with a rod of iron, we have to do it ourselves, improve that is.

Ioannis
|
Greece
March 12, 2008

IIoannis in Greece writes:

@ John in Greece -- Extra bad news for SNP and Syria John.

Besides Trafficking... Have you read the Human Rights Annual Reports?
http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2007/index.htm

Extremely informative material for all the Globe.

Unfortunately, sometimes, when we have not read more about various countries, we have a false picture of what happens there.

Check also Cuba and Sudan along with Syria.

I keep on reading... It's like a great travel around The Real World.

John
|
Greece
March 13, 2008

John @ Ioannis

What happened to SNP?
game over?

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