By Joey Gale
Tuesday evening, our group had the chance to meet with a foreign reporter from Austria named Verena Gleitsmann. Verena provided us with valuable perspectives from the eye of a foreign journalist. With the United States as a world power, a nation like Australia with a population just over 8 million has an economic and political need to stay in touch with what happens in the US. Foreign countries have a vested interest in what our nation does for the benefit, safety and protection of their own. To stay connected, news organizations send people like Verena to DC to keep their nation connected with the happenings of the United States.
To be honest, I’ve never given much thought to foreign reporters until today. I’d even go as far as saying most Americans don’t even think or know that foreign reporters are even living and reporting in our country.
When the ABC Republican debates visited Drake University back in 2011, I had the chance to go behind the scenes and meet with several reporters. After the debate ended, a foreign video crew from Japan approached me and asked for my thoughts on the night. Thrilled at the idea that a journalist even wanted to talk to me, I gladly obliged. What we often don’t think about is the sheer professional stamina and adversity that foreign reporters in the United States face. Below is a list of barriers that I pulled from our conversation with Verena today.
- You’re foreign. By definition, you’re not from here. So what does that mean? Well, you’re likely away from your family, friends and colleagues. Last year I visited the U.S. embassy in the Bahamas and asked the ambassador at the time, John Dinkelman, what he missed about home. He responded saying “Everything.” He went on further to say that those serving outside of the States tend to miss the US the most. As a Journalist, I feel that ‘longing for home’ reigns true for many working outside of their home nations as well.
- Understanding Our Political System. By no means is our political system easy to understand. For a foreign journalist working in the states, you need to have a firm grasp on your own nation’s political system as well as ours. You need to be able to translate what’s happening here into something that’s understandable for your home nation, as well as translate the story into your home nation’s language. Which brings me to point number three.
- Language Barriers. In the case of Verena today, she needed to be able to write, read, speak and re-translate english back into austrian for her readers and listeners. That can’t be easy!
- No One Needs To Talk To You. Why would a House representative or a Senate member ever need to talk to a reporter from Austria? They don’t. Verena explained how she would love to sit down for an interview with President Obama, or even some Members of Congress. Many politicians in DC see no need to spend time with a foreign reporter as they don’t report to the congress person’s constituents.
- Time Zones. While the news cycle in the US seems to never end, for a foreign reporter, deadlines have changed due dates and times. The idea of sharing and completing reports, articles or packages by the prime time news hours is a real obstacle. For example, some reporters need to stay up late to create a news package for their home country to hear in the morning.
- Understanding New Concepts. Government models from nation to nation all look different. Sometimes apples don’t line up with apples. As a journalist, the challenge here is understanding a new process of government, and then being able to communicate it clearly back to your followers. I can only imagine this gets really difficult for some. There are many things our government does that I still don’t understand.
Foreign journalists have it hard, today I developed a new appreciation for the challenges they face and the work they produce.
Have other struggles or know a foreign journalist? Let me know in the comments below.