Chicago Business/Professional Group hosts delegation of journalists from Ukraine
by Theodora Turula
CHICAGO - The Chicago Business and Professional Group on November 1 hosted a panel discussion for a group of 10 print journalists from western Ukraine who were visiting Chicago as part of a U.S. State Department Community Connections study tour.
The evening was moderated by Mariyka Klymchak, assistant director of the Ukrainian National Museum of Chicago. Also in attendance were Marion Reich and Peggy Parfenoff, representing the International Visitors Center of Chicago (IVCC).
Anna Shaleva, member of the board of the Chicago Group, greeted participants and introduced the panelists. Peggy Parfenoff, executive director of the IVCC, explained the work of the center, which in the past decade has hosted a number of groups and individual visitors from Ukraine, among them students, medical professionals and entrepreneurs.
The Community Connections program places visitors with home hosts, providing for a more in-depth experience. Most of the journalists were housed with Ukrainian families. Several of the home hosts in attendance talked of the experience, describing it as very satisfying and not burdensome, and recommending that others volunteer share their homes with future Community Connections visitors.
Participants of the study tour were: from Lviv: Andrij Bilous, general director and chief editor of Postup; Oleh Stetsyshyn, deputy chief of the sociopolitical department of Express; Olha Yatsenko, journalist with Lvivska Hazeta; Oleksandra Kharchenko, journalist with Vysokyi Zamok; from Drohobych - Nataliya Mykytyak, head of the sociopolitical department of Halytska Zoria; from Stryi - Rostyslav Turchyn, head of the news department of Homin Voli; Volodymyr Pavlenko, chief editor of Ridne Pole; from Sambir - Taras Bohovych, journalist with Vysokyi Zamok; from Truskavets - Lyubomyr Polyvka, chief editor of Dzerelo Truskavtsia; from Sokal - Oksana Prots, deputy editor of Holos Z-Nad Buhu.
A daylong tour of the Ukrainian Village neighborhood, organized by Daria Yarosevych, and the evening discussion at the institute capped a three-week study tour in Chicago. The journalists met with their Chicago counterparts at daily newspapers and news bureaus, examined the relationship between the press and governmental bodies, and were able to compare the methodology of news gathering, newspaper editing, printing and distribution. They also visited Polish, Spanish and Ukrainian ethnic newspaper offices. One of the more beneficial visits was at The Daily Herald, a daily newspaper with an extensive circulation in the suburbs of metropolitan Chicago. Here they spent the entire day, observing the process of putting out the paper from start to finish.
During the panel discussion the journalists shared their views of the current situation in Ukraine from their perspective, spoke of the problems faced by the media and addressed the issue of independent vs. state press. They were from various newspapers, from small town weekly publications to the competing daily newspapers of Lviv. The readership of newspapers was on the rise, they reported. The daily newspapers of Lviv have somewhat different viewpoints, and people often purchase more than one publication.
With regard to the difference between publicly and privately owned press, and their ability to provide unbiased news reporting, the comment was that in reality no press was entirely "free." The journalists believed that all were equally balanced in their presentation of the news, and differentiated between news and editorial opinion. With regard to their reporting of political campaigns, they stated that any political candidate was welcome to purchase space, if they wished to have more extensive coverage than the newspaper's editors were willing to provide for free.
For the most part it was the small-town newspapers that were funded by their local governments. They admitted there would be a problem if they published negative stories about the officials who supported them, but there were no constraints on printing unbiased stories about national politicians. They could, for example, criticize a member of the Verkhovna Rada, but not their village mayor.
A remark from the audience about the problems faced by travelers negotiating customs at the Lviv airport led to a lengthy discussion of bribe-taking and giving, the role of the news media in publicizing societal and political problems, and changes needed to make Ukraine an attractive destination for diaspora Ukrainians and other travelers.
The journalists were asked to comment on their visits to the various Ukrainian Village institutions. They expressed their surprise at the number of organizations that developed in the past 50 years and continue to thrive. They commended the Ukrainian diaspora for maintaining the heritage, culture and language and for its willingness to help in the rebuilding of Ukraine. In response to another audience question, the journalists confirmed that they did, indeed, report on the various humanitarian efforts funded by the Ukrainian diaspora. This was considered important, as it confirmed the extensive influence and input of Ukrainians abroad into the economy of Ukraine.
Ms. Shaleva closed the evening's program, thanking participants and inviting guests to attend upcoming events of the Chicago Business and Professional Group. Activities planned for 2004 include a meeting with former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Carlos Pascual.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, December 14, 2003, No. 50, Vol. LXXI
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