U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar for Journalists


© 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:
    • U.S. electoral process including the complex electoral college and primary system;
    • evolution of the two major political parties and their bases of voter support;
    • policy issues such as the domestic economy, globalization and international trade, foreign engagement, immigration, growing economic inequality, social change, and racial and religious identity;
    • 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.
  • 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.

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

The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election Reporting Seminar is scheduled to take place October 26 - November 7, 2020 with travel to Washington, DC and two swing state cities. The Center expects to announce and begin accepting applications in mid to late April.


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

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