The View From Abroad
By Ellen Hume and the Media
Tuesday, July 27, 2004
BOSTON -- Leave it to Australia, the country that gave us Rupert Murdoch, to provide
entertaining coverage of the Democratic National Convention.
In Monday's Sydney Morning Herald, Caroline Overington wrote: We live
in superficial times, so heres a superficial question: Is John Kerry too
unattractive to be the President of the United States? Her answer came from
the U.S. press: The former editor of The New York Times, Howell Raines,
says Kerry has an Addams family face, she wrote, and
Matt Labash of The Weekly Standard says he looks like a long-faced Easter
Island statue or like one of those tall, talking trees in 'The Lord of the
Washington bureau chief
of NHK, prepares to broadcast yesterday evening from the Japanese network's skybox
overlooking the convention floor.
Media Nation Photo by Sarah M. J. Welch
How is the convention being viewed from abroad? The level of interest in some
foreign capitals may be even higher than in parts of the United States.
Kelly Lin of New Tang Dynasty Television in China said she paid her own way
to come to Boston to cover the convention and is staying with friends to save
money because we need to know whats going to happen in the elections.
We are interested in the foreign policy for Asia.
Mexican journalists also are expecting audiences to be paying attention back
home. In our latest internal survey, we found that U.S. foreign policy with
Mexico is one of the top issues our readers are interested in, said Geraldo
Jimenez, international editor of El Universal. The paper, one of Mexicos
most influential, sent its Washington correspondent to cover the convention.
Reforma, another major Mexican paper, has a link on its Web site that would
please the Democratic National Committee: Kerry Looks After Mexicans,
it said Monday as the lead-in to its convention report. Reforma wants to know
about immigration policy but is also wondering how real is the influence
of Mexicans in the campaign, said international editor Ricardo Perez
Why did RTL News from the Netherlands bring three people here to cover the
convention? Your country is electing the leader of the free world,
said U.S. Bureau Chief Max Westerman. Were asked to chip in [with
the Iraq war and anti-terrorism campaign] so its very important to know
who leads America.
Some journalists who come from countries without a tradition of free speech
and protest were fascinated by the demonstrations starting to materialize outside
the media pavilion. The Afghan Daily took up the plight of the protesters, who,
they said, are objecting to the pen and barricades that
have been built just for them.
The foreign journalist is in media Siberia here: the last to be invited to
the parties and often working in a perch that is farthest from the action. Many
of the estimated 1,700 foreign press are scattered around the least desirable
areas of the media hall, including the distant exile of 98 N. Washington St.
Even though the DNCs press-information centers have enlisted foreign-language
speakers to help answer questions, international journalists have reason to feel
slighted. The U.S. government decided at the last minute not to fund a convention
press area for them for the first time in more than 20 years, leaving them to
work in cramped pooled space on a first-come, first-serve basis. The U.S. congressional
news media galleries, which handle distribution of convention press credentials,
found private funding to put up a $15,000 to $20,000 foreign media center at the
Republican convention in New York next month but nothing could be done in time
for this week's event.
The largest foreign-press group is from the U.K. "He's reaching out, but
will Kerry connect with America? asked The Independent, a major London-based
British newspaper, in its Monday editions. The BBC took the same tack as many
American media, predicting that the convention would be political theater
but very important, nonetheless. A BBC report said further that conventions
have turned into coronations and are held for three reasons: to energize
party supporters, educate the public about the nominee and because there is government
funding to hold them.
The next-largest delegation is the Japanese, who are watching closely what
the Democratic Party platform says about trade issues. It is important to
the Japanese people because, you know, Prime Minister Koizumis government
agreed to participate in the Iraq war and said it would be evaluated positively
in the future. That was the only explanation. Thats why the Japanese people
are concerned, and they are very interested in who will be president, said
a reporter for NHK who declined to give his name.
Kazuyasu Akashi, the JiJi Press bureau chief from Washington, D.C., said his
Japanese news agency has three people here. One of their assignments? Find out
the difference between Bush and Kerry on the war against terrorism.