Vol. 19, No. 22
March 2, 2000
|Once a globe-trotting journalist, always a globe-trotting journalist could be Ralph Begleiters mantra. The former CNN foreign correspondent, now UDs distinguished journalist in residence, was in Jordan recently as a guest of the U.S. State Department, presenting seminars on credibility and objectivity to mid-level Jordanian journalists.
It was an interesting juxtaposition: the well-known American news reporter who always operated under the rights of the First Amendment and 30 reporters whose news agencies are owned or heavily influenced by the government of King Abdullah II.
The journalists came from most of Jordans major print and broadcast news organizations and their individual philosophies ranged from one attendee who had been detained for 14 days for information he had published to others who defended the Jordanian system.
Theyre very used to government ministries calling and telling them to say this or not to print that, Begleiter said. Jordan is fairly heavy-handed with its media, so we had interesting discussions on what is objectivity, what is independent journalism, the use of anonymous sources and the benefits of traveling to observe events for yourself. Jordanian journalists, for example, are well aware of Arab-Israeli tensions but many have never traveled or experienced it first hand.
We also discussed photo manipulation and the merits of believing what you see. They were very interested in seeing how the media in other countries portray the Arab-Israeli conflict.
While I would find it frustrating to work under the conditions in Jordan, myself, I kept telling them that what we do in the West is not the be-all and end-all, that there are problems with the media environment in the U.S., too, he said. I think having such discussions and giving foreign journalists exposure to the way things are done in the West has value. You have to ask questions to bring about change, and change doesnt come about overnight.
The sessions were well attended and conducted in English with the help of two interpreters. A PowerPoint presentation, that Begleiter e-mailed to Jordan in advance, was translated into Arabic for the seminars and presented on screen in both languages.
It was fun and interesting and nice for the University to be part of an intercultural exchange, Begleiter said. For many of these Middle Eastern journalists, these seminars also had the effect of calling their attention to the University of Delaware, exposing them to the kind of programs and standards of journalism many Americans, including UD students, take for granted.