Haitian Journalists Discuss U.S. Elections During November Visit to University of Georgia

Seventeen Haitian journalists visited the University of Georgia in early November to meet with journalism students and faculty and to discuss, among other topics, the U.S. presidential elections, still without a declared winner at the time.

The journalists came to Henry W. Grady College of Journalism at the University of Georgia to learn about journalism education in the United States and to find American experts who can help them in their battle for a free press in their home country. The visit was supported by the U.S. Department of State.

The Cox Center served as hosts for the Haitians while they were at the Grady College. Cox Center Program Coordinator Kornelia Probst-Mackowiak organized the program for their visit.

Dr. Kent Middleton, head of the Department of Journalism in the Grady College, talked with the group about the press system in the United States and about how the Grady College prepares students for careers in journalism, telecommunications, advertising and public relations.

Most of the discussion during the meeting with Dr. Middleton centered around the muddled outcome of the just-completed U.S. presidential election. The Haitian journalists questioned the way television covered the election, pronouncing Al Gore and then George W. Bush the winner before the final count was completed.

"The networks were objective in their coverage of Bush and Gore," Dr. Middleton said. "But broadcasters made a big mistaking reporting that Gore won Florida just after the polls closed. The electronic media should have been more careful reporting the results in a state everyone knew would be critical to the outcome of the election."

The journalists visited the International Mass Communication class taught by Dr. Leara Rhodes, a specialist on Haiti and the Caribbean. The students asked about the media in Haiti and about the political unrest that has plagued the country in recent years.

The Haitians also toured the facilities of the Grady College and met with Professor David Hazinski, who explained how students produce the Newsource 15 cable news program. Students were completing a news show during the tour.

Most of those in the group work as radio journalists in Haiti.

"I'm sorry I did not have a chance to meet with this group," said Dr. Lee B. Becker, Cox Center Director who was in Washington during the visit. "I'm pleased that they included us in their U.S. visit and thank my colleagues for meeting with them."