Diplomacy on a Summer Evening

It is a sultry evening at the end of summer in Washington, a backyard party on a patio with picnic tables on the deck, red Christmas lights strung across the porch and the night filled with animated conversation among ten Pakistani journalists and their American friends and hosts.

The journalists are soon returning to Lahore, Karachi, Balochistan, Islamabad and other cities and provinces in Pakistan. For the last month they have been working in newsrooms across America. Most are here for the first time, witnessing and learning about American culture and sharing their own culture and experience. They have worked from Tallahassee to Tucson to Los Angeles, from Washington, DC and Baltimore to Providence and Pittsburg; one journalist reported from Minnesota. They have covered American elections, crime, state politics, the judiciary, education and economics.

The Pakistani journalists have also met with the communities, including addressing hundreds of members of the Rotary Club in Tallahassee and having a one on one discussion with a Catholic bishop about abortion.

In their month they all agreed their misperceptions of America were changed.

–I thought Americans would be rude, said one and others agreed that that was their preconception. Instead they were friendly and helpful everywhere.

–They were very friendly, said another, but in Minnesota, they had little knowledge of Pakistan and held some myths.

–When people think of Pakistan here, they think only of terrorism. That was the general misperception.

–I saw how hard Americans worked. I always thought Pakistani journalists were energetic, but an American newsroom—that is energetic!

–I lived with the executive editor, and we were in the newsroom by 7am.

–I was impressed by the huge facilities in American newsrooms. The journalists are very professional. But I come away very proud of my fellow Pakistani journalists who work in much worse conditions.

–I was surprised that 50% of the staff was women. I even had a woman driving me.

The International Center for Journalists will bring 160 Pakistani journalists to work and live in the United States, and has sponsored American journalists into Pakistani newsrooms.

As we shared chicken tandori and lamb sausages and curries and rice in the fading summer light, the guests all agreed that this type of professional exchange opened and advanced relations between people in a way that  politicians can’t or don’t.

–I covered the Governor and State legislature, said one reporter. The Governor was lobbying for his bills, especially to get his bill passed on gambling. It was just like Pakistan!


  1. Ciel Lagumen on August 30, 2012 at 4:04 pm

    Great journalistic exposure of people from countries of different culture–a result of personal networking.
    I admire and love reading your blog Joanne–keep me educated.

  2. Mary Locke on August 30, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    There’s no more important country to the US than Pakistan. We struggle to keep our relations on an even keel as it faces governing problems, a long-standing dispute with India, and its own homegrown Taliban. Better understanding of our differences won’t eliminate them but would make Pakistanis and Americans more aware of the kind of positive future we could enjoy if we worked together as partners seeking peace in that part of world. Kudos to the International Center for Journalists.

  3. Assaad Fawzia on August 30, 2012 at 4:41 pm

    Right you are, Joanne, wherever you go, humanity is the same.

  4. d j h on August 30, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks, J. How nice to read something about Pakistan without holding my breath in anticipation of reporting on unresolved questions/conflict. Nice.

  5. Roxanne Richards on August 30, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Each time I read your blog I feel that I learn so much.Keep them coming,so proud to know you

  6. Winston Tabb on August 31, 2012 at 9:25 am

    Reading this post reminded me of my several visits to the Karachi office of the Library of Congress when I was Associate Librarian there. It was always heartening to see how eager the Pakistanis were for us to acquire books and periodicals from the region so that we would better udnerstand their history and culture. The reactions you shared are the flip side of that. Person-to-person contact can’t be beat.

  7. Steve Goodwin on August 31, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    What an enlightened idea to bring these journalists here. And how important it might be for the tables to be turned — for a delegation of American journalists to go to Pakistan. Who sponsored this exchange?

  8. Susan Howell on September 2, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Thank you for this “world-as-neighborhood” post. What a brilliant idea to have a journalist exchange to help clear up misconceptions and to expose reporters to the context of each other’s countries. It’s heartening to hear these Pakistani journalists’ impressions. So glad you were there, Joanne!

    Thanks, too, to all the locals who “were friendly and helpful everywhere”!

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