Indonesian journalists, Butar-Butar and Nasihin, during their meeting with Grady faculty and students.

Journalists from Syria and Indonesia Join Georgia Students In Discussion of Media Industries and the Middle East

For 45 minutes, four Syrian and two Indonesian journalists joined 35 students and 10 faculty members at the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication on August 21 in a lively discussion about media practices in the three countries and about war and politics.

The discussion took a dramatic turn when one of the Syrian journalists asked the students and faculty to make predictions about the likelihood of peace in the Middle East in the near future.

"How do you see the Middle East a year from now?" he asked.

The consensus of the group was that peace was unlikely.

"A year from now I think people in the Middle East will still be killing one another," one of the Americans said bluntly.

The conflicts in the region have required great skill of journalists, one of the Syrian journalists said. "It will be a very easy job for journalists if we witness peace in the Middle East."

The six journalists were visiting the Grady College as part of two separate programs sponsored by the United States Department of State's International Visitor Leadership Program. The four Syrian visitors' schedule also included stops in Washington, D.C., Seattle, Atlanta and New York. The two journalists from Indonesia also visited Washington, D.C. as well as Chicago, San Francisco and Atlanta.

In Georgia, the program of the two groups was coordinated by the Georgia Council for International Visitors, while the visit at the University of Georgia was organized by the James M. Cox Center for International Mas Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College.

Indonesian visitors in front of the Journalism building.

Drs. Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad, director and assistant director of the Cox Center, welcomed the guests and described the Grady College and the international programs conducted by the Center.

"Our Center has hosted numerous international journalists and journalism educators in the last eight years," Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center, told the Syrian and Indonesian guests. "Every time, our students have benefitted extensively by meeting our visitors and by learning about issues facing media in those countries. This is why we are so glad to have you here, in the Grady College today."

Dr. Horace Newcomb, director of the Peabody Awards Program, also a part of the Grady College, told the visitors about the operation of the Awards program and its value to broadcast journalists.

"We are an international award, though most of the submissions come from the United States," he said. "We are sometimes mistakenly called a journalism award, but the range is much broader, as it includes entertainment, children education, TV series, etc."

Dr. Vlad and Syrian guests during a break.

The Syrian and Indonesian journalists, who work in both print and broadcast, toured the broadcast facilities of the college, had a meeting with Dr. E. Culpepper Clark, dean of the Grady College, and with Professors Valerie Boyd, Janice Hume, Leara Rhodes, David Hazinski and Kent Middleton, who teach print and broadcast journalism in the Grady College.

"In Indonesia, many media organizations try to copy the U.S. model," Benny Butar-Butar, editor at the ANTARA News Agency, told the student and faculty gathered to meet the journalists. "The problem is that we don't have the resources that the American media have, so our news coverage is more limited and sometimes the information comes from only one source."

The students, many of them seeking careers in print and broadcast journalism but others interested in advertising and public relations practice, attended the session during the first week of the classes in the new academic year at Georgia.

"As you know, the Middle East is a region that has been in turmoil for many decades," said Adnan Abdel Razak, editor-in-chief of Al-Iqtisad Wa Al-Nakl (Economy and Trasnsport) magazine. "As a result, the journalists in the region always have something dramatic to cover. In many cases, the coverage has been biased or politically driven, but there are lots of journalists who are aware of their ethical responsibility and are trying to do a good job."

In response to a question from a Grady undergraduate student about the U.S. and international coverage of the Middle East conflict, Huny Al Hamdan, executive editor of Al-Mal (Money) magazine, responded: "Many media organization that devote a lot of space to the conflict do not have correspondents in the region. Their coverage is frequently a compilation of what local media publish and broadcast, and most of the time they use only one source. I think the Mideast conflict is a very complex issue and media should make more efforts to reflect the perspectives of all sides involved."

"I see that women are the majority of the journalism students in this room and I've heard that this is true for most of the journalism programs in the United States," said Ms. Razan Toumani, editor of Shabablek (Youthful) magazine. "So maybe the American media will change to reflect this situation in the future. Maybe you will have lots of magazines elegantly designed on pink paper and with a content that will be different from the current print press."

Before leaving for Atlanta, the visitors toured The Red & Black, the UGA student newspaper, and met with Harry Montevideo, publisher of the paper. Montevideo explained to the Syrian and Indonesian journalists that the newspaper gets all its revenue from advertising, is independent of the university and that the students have total control of the content.

"Tell the State Department that we need more time with visits such as this one," Dr. Becker said at the close of the session with the students. "Tell them our students are interested in having these changes to talk with foreign journalists."