It seemed an interesting possibility from the very beginning, the moment when I filed the application – at the last moment, of course, as would be expected of me. I ran off to the General Post Office in Islamabad and deposited the envelope in person 10 minutes before it shut down. Then I received an interview call. It all seemed surreal, as if it was not happening to me at all.
The idea of going to the United States for the first time and to actually be able to work there for a broadcast media outlet would be no less than a dream for a confirmed workaholic like me.
The U.S.-Pakistan Journalist Exchange program instantly became the highlight of my very happening and fast-developing life. In all respects, 2013 had been a very exciting year for me, a journalist struggling to find her place in the bustling Pakistani media.
I had moved to the capital city to work for the state broadcaster, developed a whole line of current affairs programming with my team at PTV World and covered the nation’s first historic democratic transition, right from the hub of where it all happened, in Islamabad.
The final call from the exchange program came as I was nearing the end of my contract with PTV, its renewal surrounded by uncertainty. After a delay, however, the program did materialize and I landed in Washington D.C. in late May. In D.C., I had the chance to interact with the American political scientist and expert on Pakistan, India, and South Asian security Stephen P. Cohen, as well as journalists like Henry Schuster, who produces CBS’ 60 Minutes.
In our interactions with journalists in Washington and from our orientation sessions in the first three days of the program, we were briefed about how local media plays a strong role in the U.S.
Coming from a country like Pakistan, where the most successful media outlets operate nationally, while local or regional television only gets a small share of audience, it was quite a revelation to most of the 20 journalists who had been chosen to come to the U.S. – from among some 5,000 applicants!
To further experience America, we 20 journalists were all sent off to different states to get the flavors first-hand.
I have been sent to the beautiful city of Denver in Colorado, where I was to work in the I-News newsroom, hosted by one of their journalistic partners, Mary MacCarthy of Feature Story News. And that’s where the adventure begins. . .
More to come!
This blog was also posted on the web site of the International Center for Journalists.