As a journalist in Pakistan, Ramma Shahid works with the most popular morning show there to reach women throughout her country and strives to educate, inform, and entertain them. Her position led to a nomination for the Edward R. Murrow Program and sent Ramma to join approximately 100 journalists from every region of the world in travelling to the United States. She joined journalists from all walks of life; some working for global news organizations, others for tiny social media start-ups - they all arrived with a common goal of creating great journalism!
In Washington, Ramma and the other Murrow journalists had a schedule packed with meetings, including their own press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry. Ramma was chosen to represent the south and central Asian region and pose a question during the session. “You really have no time to breathe in Washington, with all the back to back to back meetings, but you really gain a better understanding of foreign policy,” she said.
Ramma appreciated the change in pace when she traveled to Syracuse, New York and then Milwaukee and Madison, Wisconsin. In Syracuse, her group worked with professors and students at the university, exploring such issues as the First Amendment, which protects the right to free speech, including by journalists. “They showed us how America was built on the pillar of the First Amendment and how individual freedom is valued in the United States,” Ramma said. “As Abraham Lincoln rightly said, the United States is truly an example of a ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people.’”
Ramma and her fellow Murrow journalists also saw that freedom of speech can be a messy process. Several of the leading journalists in the United States met with her and discussed how reporters sometimes choose not to report everything they know for a variety of reasons including safety and national security. The American journalists also shared techniques and technologies to help the Murrow journalists like Ramma in their careers.
As they traveled, Ramma and her group saw the cultural side of America as well. For example, they tried bowling, handed out candy to children on Halloween, and even visited a retirement community for older Americans in Syracuse where they exchanged emails and sat down to share life experiences. “I was amazed by the warmth and understanding American people showed in their everyday lives,” she said.
They also chatted with protestors at the state capital in Madison, WI to see firsthand how Americans are allowed to express their views – and often do so in creative ways. Some of the protestors shared their views through music, complete with violin, trombones, and even a tuba. Ramma noted that she was surprised again and again by Americans. “Americans are good listeners,” she said. “They are less rigid than people in other countries. They appreciate a different point of view and try and relate to others by looking for common ground.”
“This program gives us an invaluable opportunity to gain a lot of practical knowledge and apply it instantly,” Ramma said. “The Edward R. Murrow Program has further boosted my overall confidence and helped make long lasting connections with an elite group of journalists from all over the world. To be chosen and to strive to maintain the same set of principles as the great Edward R. Murrow is a matter of immense pride for me. ”