By Chris Carl, RTDNA Chairman
I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a Pakistani journalist at WDEL over the last few weeks. Haroon Baloch is a reporter for Radio Pakistan. Baloch is participating in the International Center for Journalists’ U.S.-Pakistan Exchange Program, which is funded by the U.S. State Department and supported by RTDNA.
As he comes to the end of his three-week assignment, Baloch said the program has definitely exceeded his expectations. “I really wanted to be able to go into the field to see how U.S. journalists worked and have been able to do that,” Baloch said.
While Baloch often does multi-media reporting for Radio Pakistan and writes articles for several newspapers, he has been particularly impressed with the American journalists’ ability to multi-task. “Journalists [in the U.S.] are writing, editing, broadcasting, webcasting much more than us,” on a daily basis. “They also have a greater ability to file stories remotely from the field.” Baloch says he believes American journalists are more productive than his counterparts–filing more stories on a daily basis. But he believes Pakistani journalists have better access to newer equipment and studios.
The one area of our operation that left a big impression on him? Traffic! Baloch got the chance to ride in one of our roving traffic vans for an afternoon and watch our reporter in action. “It is something different for us,” Baloch said. “(Americans) really pay attention to the traffic reports to plan their journey. In Pakistan, we really don’t have the same access to information. If I am a commuter, I cannot see a traffic camera.”
Baloch said he will be encouraging colleagues to take advantage of the program and visit the U.S. “It has given me a lot. Apart from the experience of working at a news organization in the United States, it has given me the chance to learn about the U.S. culture and about the public of the U.S.,” Baloch said. “The version we get (of America) is not very good. But when a journalist comes here, he’ll be surprised and say, ‘Wow. This is not the thing that we have been getting from U.S. films or the media coverage about the United States. Actually, USA is something else.’ There is a curtain between the U.S. government and its people, and it was good to see ‘true’ Americans.”
But even more than encouraging Pakistanis to visit the U.S., Baloch said he would encourage American journalists to visit his homeland. “There are plenty of positive things to be shown. We are not terrorists. We are very peaceful. Yes, there is extremism, but there is extremism everywhere,” Baloch said.
Baloch said there is definitely a gap between the two countries and cultures than can be closed through a cross-cultural exchange programs. “I was asked if we drive cars in Pakistan,” Baloch said. “Of course we do! We’re the seventh nuclear power in the world!”
To participate in the program, visit the International Center For Journalists website: http://www.icfj.org/our-work/us-pakistan-professional-partnership-journalism. If your newsroom is interested in hosting a Pakistani journalist, contact Nolan Meyer at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Chris Carl, RTDNA Chairman