A group of journalists from Nepal are visiting Emerson College for the US-Nepal Embassy Emerson Election Project to observe and report on the U.S. presidential election and sharpen their knowledge of the American political system.
The journalists—Sunita Pahari, Nabin Khatiwada, Girish Bhattarai, Pashupati Budhathoki, and Manoj Dahal—landed in Boston about two weeks ago and have been attending workshops and rallies by the presidential candidates. A similar project took place during the 2008 presidential election, when the College hosted journalists from Indonesia.
“The exposure has…given us an opportunity to understand the other forms of campaigning used during the elections,” said Dahal, deputy editor for the Annapurna Post in Kathmandu. “For instance, recently, we visited a phone bank through which the campaign calls up the voters; this is a campaigning mode we don’t have in Nepal, so it was an interesting experience.”
Dr. Gregory Payne, chair of the Department of Communication Studies, is guiding this project. He and the journalists attended rallies for Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump so that they can understand the election culture in the United States from the grassroots level.
The journalists went to a Clinton rally in New Hampshire that Senator Elizabeth Warren attended, Payne said. They were at a Granite State Trump rally when the news broke that FBI Director James Comey said he would reopen the investigation into Clinton’s emails.
“This collaboration represents the global reach of the [Communication Studies] department and Emerson College,” Payne said.
The journalists were fascinated with the difference between the election process and campaigning in Nepal and the United States, and how campaigns here work through technology and digital platforms.
“America has elections for Congress, state senators, and citizens even have the opportunity to vote for referendum questions, but back home we don’t have such practices,” said Khatiwada, who works with Republica in Nepal. “Also, we are still dependent on traditional forms of campaigning like door-to-door, whereas the campaigning in the United States is dependent largely on technology.”
Khatiwada also said he was surprised to learn that American media will endorse candidates for office—something that no news outlet does in Nepal.
The journalists said they felt that allegations and scandals took the center stage during this election cycle, with issues of national importance and foreign policies taking a backseat. They added that from the reportage in South Asia, they assumed that America did not have issues such as wage inequalities for women or racial discrimination, but now they have a better understanding of the flaws in the American system.
However, they said they were in awe of the learning environment that has been provided for students at Emerson and felt that this experience will improve their writing and reporting skills.
“Dr. Payne and other professors have provided us with a wider perspective on the election as well as on the culture of the United States,” Khatiwada said. “They have been warm and encouraging toward our work. We are happy to see that the relationship between the students and the professors is very cordial and they constantly share knowledge and debate on relevant issues.”
In the coming days, the journalists from Nepal will also visit Washington, New York, Virginia, and Ohio.