Seeing America, Through the Lens of Journalism

Posted by Lee Satterfield
November 26, 2013
Secretary Kerry Delivers Remarks to the Participants of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists

Some arrived as skeptics, but they all were full of questions and wondered what to expect. A great majority had never been to the United States before.

Yet just three short weeks later, the mood was celebratory and relaxed for the 99 journalists from every region of the world on the Edward R. Murrow Program, as they networked and reminisced about how the program has affected them.

In their whirlwind tour, the journalists received a broad introduction to the United States. They had their own press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry and Spokesperson Jen Psaki.  Following a few days in Washington, D.C., they split off to visit nine leading schools of journalism across the country -- sitting in classes, talking to students, working directly with other journalists, and seeing the latest tools of the trade. Then they traveled to another U.S. city, where they met more journalists, did volunteer work, bowled with American youth, and sat down for home cooked meals with Americans.

After three weeks in the United States, they had a lot to share with each other, as they wrapped up their program in New York City. In a panel discussion, the participant from Venezuela began her remarks by stating that “we are not as different as we think.” Several of the Murrow fellows stated that their perceptions about America had changed: they saw much more diversity and pluralism than they ever expected. They were intrigued by patriotism:  how Americans had flags hanging over their pumpkins for Halloween and how almost everyone stands in place in silence as the national anthem plays before a sporting event. And they raved about the latest journalistic tools, from using social media to develop stories to saving costs in television production through central controls.

Of course, not all questions were answered in three weeks. The participants still grappled with the contradictions they saw between personal freedom and community rules that are in the public interest. How, for example, they asked, can the police in the United States justify breaking up a gathering simply because it is late at night and loud? They also struggled to understand the implications of the First Amendment, which guarantees American journalists freedom of the press, and how U.S. reporters sometimes choose not to report everything they know, for a variety of reasons.  Additionally, they discussed the dangers and satisfactions of their careers and their commitment to journalistic integrity. 

As they concluded their last thoughts in final evaluation sessions, the Murrow journalists were mostly hopeful. They collected firsthand accounts of America that they could share with their audiences back home.   They held a better understanding of the United States and could put our society and policies in context for their audiences.  Most saw new techniques or technologies to help them advance in their careers. And they left New York with a network of peers from across the world and the United States to collaborate with and from which to draw information and support.

As the participants shared their memories and received their certificates of completion, you felt that this group of journalists was going to go home equipped with new tools to impact the world. And the citizens of the world will be the beneficiaries.

About the Author: Lee Satterfield serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Professional and Cultural Exchanges for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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