Jordanian journalists, on trip to U.S., observe presidential election and Hurricane Sandy

Jordanian journalists who were observing the presidential election in the United States in a program run by a J/MS professor got hit by Hurricane Sandy, creamed by a Nor’ easter in Boston and found themselves unable to leave Chicago because of extreme weather.

“The entire program was a challenge,” said Jerome Aumente, who runs programs for the State Department in conjunction with Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. “Frankenstorm” Sandy could not dim the enthusiasm of the seven journalists, who were watching the presidential election in America in preparation for coverage of their own elections this month.

“Luckily, it became an added bonus, as our visitors observed the American news media covering both a presidential election and one of the most powerful storms of all time to hit the Eastern seaboard,” noted Aumente.

The journalists are on the staffs of newspapers, television, news agencies and online news sites in Jordan. Despite the storm-challenging days, they were able to meet with American news media counterparts in Washington, DC, Boston, Chicago and Winchester, Virginia, before, during and after the election.

On election day, the visiting journalists observed voting at several polling sites and conducted exit interviews with voters and poll watchers in Cambridge, Mass. They attended an election night watch at the main Democratic gala in Boston and monitored the returns as they saw President Barack Obama being re-elected and Elizabeth Warren winning a closely watched U.S. Senate race.

According to Aumente, the journalists filed photos, videos and stories via the Internet as they traveled. For a grass roots look at the elections, they spent a day in Winchester, Virginia, a key swing state, visiting the offices.

In Washington, they met with Middle East specialists at the State Department, with editors and on-air personalities at the PBS “News Hour,” and later at WETA public television. In Boston, they met with editors at The Boston Globe, at the online news service, Global Post, and with AP editors.

They met with the directors and staff of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University and at the Kennedy School of Government’s Shorenstein Center for the Press, Politics and Public Policy.

When the journalists found themselves unable to leave Chicago because of the megastorm, additional meetings were arranged for them at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, with county election officials and campaign officials.

One journalist said: “I liked the chance given to us to meet as many experts available in the field of media and journalism and benefit from their experiences.”