The Mustang Daily office received a visit from three Ukrainians in a U.S. legislative exchange program Friday.
The Open World Program was developed to provide Russian and other Eurasians with experiences in American democracy and civil society. Another goal of the program is to promote understanding between the U.S. and the participants’ home countries. It is the first and only legislative exchange program in the U.S.
Faculty advisor to the Mustang Daily George Ramos and editor in chief Emily Rancer, a journalism senior, met with the three Ukrainian women to talk about the Cal Poly Journalism Department.
Oksana Levkova, the youth director of an environmental education program called WETI, asked if American journalists struggle with the balance between being patriotic and presenting the truth. Ramos said they are journalists first, but there is a sense of wanting to protect yourself and having to ask the question, “Is it news?”
Levkova wanted to know what qualifies as news and asked if news is only negative.
“It isn’t always negative. It could just be the fact that it happened in your own backyard,” Ramos said.
Stopping at the journalism department was just one item on the three women’s itinerary during their stay from Oct. 14 to 22.
Earlier last week they were present at a county board of supervisors meeting and toured the county clerk-recorder’s office. They also sat in on a meeting at The Tribune and visited KSBY studios.
Tetyana Pechonchyk, a scientist and public relations professional with the Ukrainian Independent Information and News Agency, said her favorite part of the trip had been meeting with representatives from local media.
“It’s very interesting to gain some experience with local media and to define which is better,” Pechonchyk said.
Pechonchyk said it is hard to say whether media in America or Ukraine is better. However, Ukraine has two types of media, commercial and state-owned. State-owned media, she said is leftover from the Soviet Union. The fact that the U.S. does not have state-owned media makes American media better in her opinion.
“I think it is better in all regards here than in the Ukraine,” she said.
The League of Women Voters is hosting the delegates.
“We thought it was a great opportunity to learn about an emerging democracy and help an emerging democracy,” league president Trudy Jarratt said.
Jarratt said she thinks the U.S. is an excellent place to observe political and civic life.
“They got to see the best of what we do as a democracy and they saw what can be better,” she said.
The Open World Program seeks to find a focus based on the professional or civic work of each group of delegates that comes to the U.S. For Pechonchyk, Levkova and the third visiting Ukrainian, Tetyana Khimchenko, deputy director of the social service organization “Every Child,” the focus is journalism.
Some of the other questions asked included whether public relations fits into a journalism or a business program and the cost of going to Cal Poly compared to other schools.
After the question and answer period in the Mustang Daily newsroom, the women were given a tour of the KCPR station and the CPTV station. In the television station, each woman took a turn sitting in an anchor seat.
“We can apply this experience in our own country,” Pechonchyk said. They will be giving presentations in Ukraine, but Pechonchyk also said these encounters with American political and civic life will cause a perceptual change in the participants.
The women later told Jarratt that they loved their time at Cal Poly.
“They were very impressed with Mr. Ramos and the facility and the way the university prepares its students to enter the media,” Jarratt said.