ELKO — Five Ukrainian journalists and editors immersed themselves in American culture and policy during a weeklong trip to Elko that included tours, panel discussions and recreational activities.
Open World Leadership Center, a legislative branch agency, sent the Ukrainian delegation to Elko Nov. 2-10. Delegates have been participating in an itinerary organized by the local Rotary Clubs.
The delegation includes Olena Ochichenko, editor, Cherkasy Regional Directorate of National Public Television; Anna Turska, journalist, director of information Portal “About Everything,” Nazarii Vivcharyk, chief editor, Bureau of Effective Communications; Oleksandra Chernova, editor, Cherkasy Regional Directorate of National Public Television and Radio Company of Ukraine; and Viktoriia Pozhar-Stasko, journalist and news editor at the TV company “Antenna.”
The group was also accompanied by a bicultural facilitator, Vasyl Romanyuk, and bilingual translator Alexander Krainiy.
Before arriving in Elko, the group completed an orientation in Washington, D.C., where they had policy meetings with several members of Congress and staff.
Locally, delegates met staff of Rep. Mark Amodei as well as local community members, and business and government leaders. Additional activities included visits to the Northeastern Nevada Museum, Western Folklife Center and the California Trail Interpretive Center. The schedule also included tours of Ruby Valley, the Maggie Creek Ranch and a Newmont Mining Corp. mine.
A panel discussion Nov. 8 gave the Ukrainians the opportunity to compare U.S. government policies and journalism with the practices in their country.
Mayor-elect Reece Keener welcomed the journalists and told them it was a very interesting time for them to be in Elko and the United States through the midterm elections.
“It can be very difficult to make an informed decision as a voter because there is so much information out there,” Keener said. “As a candidate it was good to have a good relationship with the local media here. I felt like I got very good media coverage.”
The Ukrainian journalists sent a series of questions to the panel members in advance. Their questions covered free speech, journalism and business practices. Spontaneous discussion at the forum covered government transparency, higher education and substance abuse.
Cathy McAdoo, regent and former PACE Coalition director, told the group her daughter spent nine weeks in Odessa, Ukraine, some years ago. She also told the group that she serves on the hospital board and the health sciences board for the Nevada System of Higher Education.
“In regard to your presubmitted questions, my son and daughter-in-law own a restaurant here in Elko,” she said. “So with that experience and my experience on health care boards, I wanted to address your questions about checkup visits in regard to safety.”
Nevada and the United States value public safety, McAdoo told the group.
“We have Nevada state laws regarding public health and safety. The officers and agents of those organizations are the ones that monitor the establishments that provide food, health care, parks; they also monitor air, water, drugs and public accommodations such as motels and hotels.”
Nazarii Vivcharyk asked McAdoo if the businesses know about the visits in advance.
“In the Ukraine the [visits] have to be planned, and because of that they can get ready and make things seem a little differently than they are in real life,” he said through a translator.
McAdoo informed Vivcharyk and the others that restaurant inspections are a surprise.
“The owner of the establishment does not know, and the results of that visit are published,” she said.
Suzanne Featherston, Elko Daily Free Press mining editor, tackled a question on the First Amendment, but before doing so, she noted that she has Ukrainian ancestry.
“My great-grandparents immigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine,” she said.
This brought a series of comments in Ukrainian and smiles from the journalists.
“That is why we knew that you looked like us,” the translator said.
“The question on your list of questions that intrigued me the most was wondering about how the First Amendment affects journalism in the United States,” Featherston said.
She gave some background about freedom of the press and its adoption in 1791.
“It does give us a lot of freedom which we are fortunate to have,” she said. “Although it sounds absolute, it’s not.”
Featherston told the group that reporters are not protected absolutely by the Constitution against libel, invasion of someone’s privacy or negligence.
Panelist Pam Lattin, owner of Canyon Construction, also chose to answer the question about the First Amendment.
She gave the group a brief introduction about the Constitution.
“The Untied States declared its independence in 1776,” Lattin said. “The Constitution was not drafted until 11 years after that. It was not ratified until another year later by three-fourths of the existing states at that time.”
“What took it so long?” she asked. “There were 74 delegates coming together to draft a constitution. Can you imagining having 74 men agree on anything?”
North Americans and Eastern Europeans, alike, laughed aloud.
In separate meetings, the group also heard from Elko Daily Free Press editor Jeff Mullins, spent time with Elko Broadcasting Co.’s Lori Gilbert, and participated in a video conference with the University of Nevada, Reno, Reynolds School of Journalism.
“This is democratic,” one of the members said after the panel discussion, explaining that the press in Ukraine is suppressed. “But here, you are protected.”
More than 26,000 current and future leaders from post-Soviet era countries have participated in an Open World exchange program. The programs are designed “to promote mutually beneficial options for depolarized engagement between future national leaders.”
Rotary is a global network of 1.2 million neighbors, friends, leaders and problem-solvers “who see a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change,” according to the organization.
Open World Leadership Center delegates are provided with extensive exposure to American politics, civic life and are hosted by American families.
As the delegation neared the end of their visit, Pozhar-Stasko said one of her favorite parts of the experience was seeing the mountains. She also noted Americans’ — especially Elkoans’ — hospitality, and each of the members thanked their hosts.
“You give kindness without anything,” Pozhar-Stasko said.