St. Louis journalists Casey Nolen, Dick Weiss reflect on their media exchange program in Pakistan

Jan 5, 2018
Originally published on January 8, 2018 8:56 pm

On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked to KSDK anchor Casey Nolen and long-time journalist Dick Weiss about their recent two-week visit to Pakistan.

They were among a dozen visitors from media and academia who made the trip sponsored by the University Of Oklahoma Gaylord College Of Journalism and Mass Communications and the U.S. State Department.

They met with journalists at a variety of media outlets and also spoke to nongovernmental organizations involved in human rights advocacy.

The groups discussed their preconceptions and biases, often including frank conversations about each other’s politics and government. Nolen said the Pakistani journalists were able to speak freely about various subjects, but there were also a few taboos.

“[The Pakistani journalists] have a pride in their freedom of the press. They have a pride in the way they take on their politicians, but there are certainly some no-go areas – the military being one and then of course anything that can be construed as blasphemy,” Nolen said.

The main attackers of the press in Pakistan are non-state actors. The U.S. State Department discourages tourism to the country due to safety concerns.

Weiss said the experience led him to welcome the nuances in approaching complex issues.

“It’s important to tread lightly, study up and understand all the pressures that exist in [Pakistani] society so that we can come to a better place,” Weiss said.

Lessons brought back home

Nolen said he learned to try and incorporate more national coverage in local stations.

“I think maybe we could use a little more teeth in our journalism,” he said. “[The Pakistani journalists] kind of stood up and held us accountable and asked us some hard questions that sometimes we as local journalists think, ‘Well, we don’t cover that, we’re local.”

He said he left Pakistan wondering why there isn’t more political analysis and holding state-elected officials accountable at the local level in the U.S. Weiss said people in the Midwest often don’t feel as connected with the rest of the world as people in Pakistan do.

 “[The Midwest] tends to be provincial. But what’s going on in Pakistan is really actually very important to us,” he said. “But a lot of [local] journalism is not internationally based, and we suffer from that provincialism.”

Listen to the full discussion:

 

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