For nine years, the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists has provided an opportunity for young media professionals from around the world to travel to the United States through the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). This year approximately 100 emerging leaders in the field of journalism were selected to participate in the program, which allows them to examine the rights and responsibilities of the free press in a democracy. Among the key themes for 2014 were freedom of the press, reliable sourcing, and discerning misinformation.
During the opening lunch in Washington, D.C., participants heard from legendary journalist Bob Woodward, most widely known for uncovering the Watergate scandal. Woodward cited the legacy of Ben Bradlee, former Editor-in-Chief of the Washington Post, saying Bradlee was “never afraid to tell the truth.” Since the participants represented a wide array of nations with varying degrees of press freedom, they asked Woodward for advice on how to apply journalistic principles in challenging political environments.
Prior to departing Washington, the participants were divided into seven smaller groups according to their region of origin and native language. Each group traveled to one of seven prestigious schools of journalism to learn about the resources offered by each institution. They went on to visit local communities in one of the following U.S. cities: Albuquerque, NM; San Diego, CA; Pensacola, FL; Dallas, TX; Chicago, IL; Tucson, AZ; and Los Angeles, CA, where they observed the operational practices and standards of American media institutions and gained insight into the social, economic, and political structures of the United States. Since the timing of their travels coincided with one of the most important events in our democracy – elections – the group witnessed voting by observing polling locations for the midterm elections as well as its press coverage by some newsrooms. The entire group reunited in New York City to conclude the program.
Reflecting back on the major takeaways of her experience, Olive Burrows, a Kenyan reporter for CapitalFM, said, “The power of the pen comes with a responsibility. That is something else we’ve learned…when we’re asking questions, we’re not just asking them for ourselves. We’re asking them for the public, on their behalf. On their behalf we’re requiring accountability.”