U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar

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© Liz A. Dorn, East-West Center 

The U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar is a 12-day professional study and reporting tour designed for working print, broadcast and online journalists. This special seminar enables participating journalists to report before, during and after the U.S. presidential election from key states in the American electoral system. Coordinated meetings and visits will provide journalists with an extensive knowledge and understanding of the U.S. election process, policy issues, and American voter attitudes, thereby enhancing a journalist’s coverage of the U.S. presidential elections to audiences back home. The program maximizes East-West Center’s experience in designing media programs and unique access to important organizations and constituencies. Benefits to journalists are:

  • Enhanced knowledge regarding the presidential election in the United States gained through discussions with government and political party officials, business leaders, academics, journalists, community activists and voters from a range of diverse constituencies. Emphasis will be placed on:
  1. U.S. electoral process including the complex electoral college and primary system;
  2. evolution of the two major political parties and their bases of voter support;
  3. policy issues such as the domestic economy, globalization and international trade, foreign engagement, immigration, growing economic inequality, social change, and racial and religious identity;
  4. impact of the election on the above policy issues as well as on foreign policy priorities with those countries represented by the participating journalists.
  • Access to key constituencies, the election process and U.S. political parties, via observance of the vote counting process, political campaigning practices and attendance at election night result parties at local Republican and Democratic headquarters, as public health policies allow.
  • Informed understanding of the American public through interactive dialogue with local communities via panel discussions, student forums, and host family dinners.
  • Development of reliable professional and personal information networks upon which participants can draw throughout their career.

Eligibility: Mid-career journalists from any country with at least five years or more of media experience. Media professionals from print, broadcast and online news organizations, including reporters, writers, editors, producers, columnists, editorial writers, and bloggers are eligible to apply. Freelancers are also eligible, but must clearly indicate how they intend to distribute stories generated as a result of the seminar. Fluency in English is required. 

For more information on East-West Center journalism fellowships and exchanges, see https://www.eastwestcenter.org/professional-development/seminars-journalism-programs.

 

2020 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar

Virtual Destinations:  Tampa, Florida; Lansing, Michigan; Washington, DC  

On Tuesday, November 3, 2020, Americans went to the polls to elect a new President and Vice-President, 35 Senators, 435 House Representatives, 13 Governors and a host of other local offices. The 2020 U.S. presidential election, in particular, was historic as Joseph R. Biden Jr. became the oldest President-elect while setting a record for the greatest number of popular votes cast for a presidential candidate at 80,026,000 million and counting. Contested under the shadow of the coronavirus, which even infected one of the presidential candidates, the 2020 election set modern records for voter participation, spending, and the vast expansion of early and “no excuse” mail-in voting. Changing demographics of the electorate, including a growing African-American population in Georgia and Latinx populations in Arizona and Nevada, also resulted in a historical shift to the U.S. electoral college and, possibly, to political parties and campaigning. Finally, the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. marks the first time in U.S. history that a defeated presidential candidate has refused to concede. The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar held October 25 – November 7, 2020, brought together ten international journalists representing seven countries to virtually observe and report on this historic election.

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar (USPres Seminar) began with an overview of the American political system that covered the impact of federalism, the separation of powers, and congressional influencers on foreign policymaking. Another foundational session provided an overview of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, the rights guaranteed, and how those rights have been interpreted and limited by the courts with specific emphasis on press freedoms. In addition, a session with Pew Research Center experts examined the changing demographics of the U.S. electorate as well as key election polling concerns. A session with university professor and author of, Party Position Change in American Politics, David Karol, discussed the history and evolution of the Republican and Democratic parties, how both presidential candidates fit into those ideologies, and whether 2020 might prove to be a realignment election. Another foundational session with Harvard University professor, Alex Keyssar, covered the history of suffrage in the U.S., the underlying causes of expansion and contraction, and the electoral college’s history, federalist intent, and impact on Presidential campaigns. Finally, Case Western University professor, Justin Buchler, offered a primer on campaign finance laws in the U.S., the role of bundlers and SuperPACS, and the influence of money on recent presidential campaigns. Collectively, these foundational sessions provided a basis from which the journalists better understood the American political and electoral structures within which the election took place while better equipping them to analyze key election issues driving voter participation and engagement in 2020.

Florida’s population has exploded in the past 65 years and its electoral importance has grown with it, from eight electoral votes at the end of World War II to 29 electoral votes today. As the state has become a microcosm of the country’s growing racial, economic, and political diversity, its electoral college votes have been decided by narrow popular vote margins of 1.2% or less in 2016, 2012, and 2000. Decided by a popular vote margin of 3.37%, Florida was once again one of several key swing states in the 2020 election and offered the journalists a window into some of the issues energizing civil society and voter engagement. In particular, the journalists met virtually with representatives from Americans for Immigrant Justice and the Florida Immigrant Coalition to examine how immigration laws have changed since 2016, what obstacles pose, and how the continuation of these policies affects immigrants and economic growth in Florida. The journalists also explored economic inequality in the U.S. and how the COVID-19 recession has exacerbated pre-existing geographic and racial inequities. Another session with a Florida-based Democratic strategist and executive director of The Center for Electoral Innovation and Research, David Becker, provided the journalists with an overview of the debate concerning the expansion and integrity of mail-in voting. The journalists additionally discussed the debate surrounding climate change, environmental justice, and the Green New Deal from the perspective of civil society proponents and elected local and state officials, Councilwoman Gina Driscoll and State Senator Lori Berman.

Like Florida, Michigan and Ohio were both battleground states in the 2020 election due their wealth of 16 and 20 electoral votes respectively, narrow popular vote margins, and the realignment of white working-class voters towards the Republican Party. From 1972 through 1988, Michigan, for instance, voted exclusively Republican, before becoming part of the 'blue wall' that voted Democratic in six consecutive presidential elections from 1992 through 2012. Donald Trump narrowly flipped the state in 2016 by a margin of 0.23%, defeating Hillary Clinton by just 10,704 votes. In 2020, Michigan and Ohio split their votes with Joseph R. Biden winning Michigan’s 16 electoral college votes by a margin of 2.8% and Donald. J. Trump wining Ohio by a margin of 8.0%. The virtual inclusion of Lansing and Cleveland offered the journalists additional opportunities to contemplate key election issues in 2020. The journalists examined racial discrimination and social justice in a panel session with DeRay Mckesson, Black Lives Matter activist and “Pod Save the People” host; N. Charles Anderson, president of the Urban League of Detroit; Elder Leslie Mathews, criminal justice director of Michigan United; and Sarah Anthony, Michigan State Representative for Lansing. Mr. Mckesson provided the journalists with an overview of the Black Lives Matter movement nationally while the others discussed racial discrimination, inequitable economic opportunity, and police violence in the state of Michigan as well as how civil society and state leaders are working to address these issues. In another session with Ethan Karp, president and CEO of Cleveland’s MAGNET, and David N. Taylor, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Manufacturer’s Association, the journalists considered the importance of the manufacturing industry to the economy and job creation, and the impact of Trump’s trade policies on the Ohio and Pennsylvania manufacturing industry.

The 2020USPres Seminar also included a number of unique opportunities to virtually interact with American voters and observe the election process via freelance video coverage. Organized constituent Zoom breakout sessions enabled the journalists to speak in small groups with American voters regarding their level of engagement in the political process, what issues were important to them, and for which candidate they intended to vote. As a result of these constituent breakouts, journalists virtually met over 40 voters representing: millennials, retirees, issue advocates, inclusion advocates, and Asian-Americans. In addition to the constituent breakouts, the Center provided an extensive package of raw and produced videos, Getty images, and unique, daily election coverage to our journalists and their newsrooms, a sampling of which appear in the above video. Being able to offer such a unique package of visuals to working journalists differentiates the Center's virtual programs and increases our competitiveness in a crowded virtual space

Following the election, journalists met virtually with DC-based government officials and think tank experts to analyze the 2020 election results and their impact on security relations and international trade. A session with the U.S. State Department provided the journalists with an overview of current U.S.-South Asia relations. Later, the journalists explored how a Biden Administration might perceive, prioritize, and negotiate U.S. foreign relations in a panel discussion accompanied by regional breakouts, featuring:  Zack Cooper of American Enterprise Institute, Johnnie Carson of U.S. Institute of Peace, Murray Hiebert of Center for Strategic and International Studies, Micheal Kugelman of Woodrow Wilson Center, and Charles A. Kupchan of Council of Foreign Relations. In addition, a session with Gary Clyde Hufbauer of the Peterson Institute for International Economics examined the impact of Trump’s trade policies on global trade liberalization and the U.S. economy as well as whether a Biden Administration may reverse or continue these policies. The journalists also analyzed the future of the Republican Party with Thomas E. Patterson, author of Is the Republican Party Destroying Itself, and John B. Bellinger III, co-founder of the Former Republican National Security Officials for Biden. Another session with a Cuyahoga County Board of Elections official and an election expert at the University of Georgia offered a case study look into the U.S. election process, including the counting of ballots, as well as an assessment of how free, fair, and transparent the process was in the swing states of Ohio and Georgia. Finally, the journalists met with peers from The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Times, and MSNBC for an informal conversation about the role of traditional and social media in the 2020 elections.

The USPres Seminar was funded by the East-West Center and seven U.S. Embassies in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, and the United Kingdom, and resulted in 90 stories contributed to, produced, published, and aired.

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Cohort included:
  • Mr. Humayun Kabir BHUIYAN, Diplomatic Correspondent, Dhaka Tribune, Dhaka, Bangladesh
  • Mr. Ollie COLE, Producer, Times Radio, London, United Kingdom
  • Mr. Nasim HAYDER, News Controller, GEO TV, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Ms. Thanchanok JONGYOTYING, Chief News Editor for Foreign Affairs, Thai News Network, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Mr. Marcel MBAMALU, News Editor, The Guardian, Lagos, Nigeria
  • Ms. Geeta MOHAN, Foreign Affairs Editor, India Today, New Delhi, India
  • Mr. Fayaz NAICH, Anchor and Reporter, Sindh TV Network, Karachi, Pakistan
  • Mr. Eric NAKI, Political Editor, The Citizen, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • Mr. Thomas NEWTON DUNN, Chief Political Commentator, Times Radio, London, United Kingdom
  • Mr. Porimol PALMA, Diplomatic Correspondent, The Daily Star, Dhaka, Bangladesh

 

2016 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar

Dates:  October 31 – November 12, 2016

Study Tour Destinations: Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio; Washington, DC.

On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, Americans went to the polls to elect a new President and Vice-President, 33 Senators, 435 House Representatives, 12 Governors and a host of other local offices. The 2016 U.S. presidential election, in particular, was historic as Donald J. Trump became the first president with no previous political or military experience. In addition, the election of Donald J. Trump marks only the third time in U.S. history that an outsider has succeeded in the hostile takeover of a political party. The two previous successful hostile takeovers were mounted by former U. S. Congressman William Jennings Bryan (D) in 1896 and by U. S. Senator Barry Goldwater (R) in 1964. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar held October 31 – November 11, 2016, took nine Asia Pacific journalists to Charlotte, North Carolina; Cleveland, Ohio: and Washington, DC to observe and report on this historic election.

 

The 47th Vice President, Joe Biden, stomping for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary R. Clinton. © Liz A. Dorn, East-West Center 

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar included a number of rare opportunities to observe the U.S. political process in action and interact with American voters. In Charlotte, the journalists attended a rally of 350 Democratic volunteers headlined by the 47th Vice President of the United States and Hillary R. Clinton campaign surrogate, Joe Biden. The journalists also observed Republican presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump, connect with an audience of more than 2,000 supporters in Concord, a former textile manufacturing town. Finally, in Cleveland, the journalists watched from the floor as Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary R. Clinton, together with U.S. Representative Marcia L. Fudge, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, and basketball star, LeBron James, stumped before a crowd of over 1,500 supporters. Observing rallies for both Republican and Democratic candidates reinforced party differences discussed in formal sessions and offered one-on-one interaction with party activists and supporters. Organized constituent luncheons further enabled participating journalists to speak one-on-one with American voters regarding their level of engagement in the political process, what issues were important to them and for which candidate they intended to vote. As a result of these constituent luncheons, participating journalists met over 45 constituents representing:  millennials, retirees, business owners, grassroots party activists, issue advocates, and Asian-Americans.

Republican presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump, connecting with supporters in Concord, NC.  © Liz A. Dorn, East-West Center 

North Carolina's party loyalties have undergone a series of important shifts in the last few years. In the early 2000s, Republican George W. Bush easily won the state by over 12 points, but by 2008, demographic shifts, population growth, and increased liberalization in heavily populated areas, such as Charlotte, propelled Barack Obama to victory in North Carolina. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney ultimately won the state’s electoral votes by a 2% margin. With 15 of the necessary 270 electoral votes to win the U.S. presidency, North Carolina was once again one of several key swing states in the 2016 election. The Charlotte study tour afforded participating journalists an introduction to core structural and ideological elements of U.S. elections and the two major political parties as well as an opportunity to explore specific election issues. In particular, the group benefited from an overview of the history of the U.S. Electoral College, its federalist intent and its impact on presidential and vice presidential campaigns. A session with Associate Professor, Susan L. Roberts, discussed the history and evolution of the Republican and Democratic parties, how both presidential candidates fit into those ideologies, and whether 2016 is considered a realignment election. Similarly, a session with Provost and Professor J. Michael Bitzer examined the role of Congress in the policymaking process and the importance of down ballot elections in 2016.  In addition to sessions on core structural elements of U.S. elections, the journalists discussed voter ID laws in the U.S. with proponent and North Carolina State Senator, Jeff Tarte. The journalists also explored issues of racial and social justice in a panel session with Patrick C. Graham, President of the Urban League of Central Carolinas, and Toussaint C. Romain, Assistant Public Defender and Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice. Mr. Graham provided the journalists with an overview of the #BlackLivesMatter movement while Mr. Romain articulated an implicit bias within the U.S. criminal justice system and its impact on African American communities.

Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary R. Clinton and basketball star, Lebron James, appeal to voters in Cleveland, OH.  © Liz A. Dorn, East-West Center

Like North Carolina, Ohio has also been a battleground in recent elections due to tight voting margins, its wealth of 20 electoral votes and its long history as a bellwether state. In 2012, incumbent Barack Obama defeated challenger Mitt Romney by a 3% margin of victory down slightly from his 4.8% margin of victory over John McCain in 2008. In 2004, however, Ohio put George W. Bush over the top in a close 2.0% margin of victory. Since 1944, Ohioans have sided with the losing candidate only once. The Cleveland study tour allowed participating journalists to explore specific policy issues dominating the 2016 presidential campaigns via meetings with policymakers, business leaders, community activists, and most importantly, voters from a variety of important constituencies. In a session with Ethan Karp, president and CEO of Cleveland’s Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, the journalists considered the importance of the manufacturing industry to the U.S. economy and job creation and the policy prescriptions each candidate supported. The journalists further explored whether the 2016 presidential campaign represented a public referendum on free trade, particularly, U.S.-China trade, with Assistant Professor Paul Schroeder. Another key policy issue dominating the 2016 campaign that the journalists explored in Cleveland was immigration. A session with Joe Cimperman, President of Global Cleveland, provided an overview of immigration into the United States over the last twenty years and its effects on the economy, with an emphasis on refugee relocation and authorized/legal immigration to Ohio. The journalists also met with Amy Hanauer, Executive Director of Policy Matters Ohio, as well as former Ohio State Senator, Nina Turner, to discuss income inequality and underemployment in the U.S. Finally, a session with Associate Professor, Justin Buchler, examined campaign finance laws, the role of bundlers and SuperPACS, and the influence, or lack thereof, of money on the current election cycle and presidential campaigns more generally.

2016 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar participants at the U.S. Capitol. © Liz A. Dorn, East-West Center

Throughout the Seminar, journalists had multiple occasions to observe the 2016 presidential election taking place. Visits to both the Mecklenburg County’s Board of Elections and Cuyahoga County’s Board of Elections afforded the journalists with opportunities to observe American voters cast their ballots as well as better understand the voting process, including absentee and mail-in voting, ballot counting, and the preservation of electoral integrity. Election Day also included additional opportunities to visit various polling stations followed by observing and interacting with U.S. party activists and voters at watch parties hosted by the Cuyahoga chapters of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Following the election, journalists traveled to Washington, DC to meet with government officials, researchers and journalists to analyze the 2016 election results and their impact on relations between the U.S. and the Asia Pacific region. The group met with U.S. State Department officials to discuss current U.S. foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region. Later, the journalists met with Michael Kugelman of Woodrow Wilson Center, Blaise Misztal of the Bipartisan Policy Institute, and Satu Limaye of the East-West Center regarding how the Trump administration might perceive, prioritize, and negotiate relations abroad. In addition, the journalists met with Jeffrey J. Schott of the Peterson Institute for International Economics to discuss how the new administration might prioritize and handle international trade agreements, like the Trans Pacific Partnership. A meeting at Pew Research Center analyzed the public’s view of America’s global role with regards to defense spending, military action against terrorists groups, and ally relationships. The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar concluded with a facilitated debriefing session in Washington, DC.

The 2016 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar Participants were:

  • Ms. Emma CONNORS, Managing Editor, The Interpreter, Lowy Institute for International Policy, Sydney, Australia
  • Mr. Nirmal GHOSH, Indochina Bureau Chief, The Straits Times, Singapore
  • Ms. Charnika IMBULANA, Political & Int’l News Correspondent, Daily Financial Times, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Mr. Mirwais JALALZAI, Contributing Reporter, Turkish Radio Television, Kabul, Afghanistan
  • Ms. Audrey LI, Freelance Journalist & Independent Filmmaker, Guangzhou, China
  • Mr. Stuart LAU, Political Reporter, South China Morning Post, Hong Kong SAR
  • Mr. Emanuel SARFRAZ, Coordinating Editor, The Nation, Lahore, Pakistan
  • Mr. David WEBER, Reporter, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, East Perth, Australia

 

Contact Information

Liz A. Dorn
Seminars Program Coordinator
East-West Center
1601 East West Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96848
(tel) 808-944-7368
dorne@eastwestcenter.org

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