On a sunny Friday afternoon in late July, a group of visitors disembarked at Manzanita News & Espresso for a visit with the editor of a small local newspaper. Tourists in Manzanita certainly aren’t news, but this was not an ordinary group.
By Laura Swanson
The three men and one woman from Uzbekistan (a small landlocked country near Russia, bordered by Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to the south, Kazakhstan to the north), accompanied by three translators, have spent the last several weeks traipsing across the United States, meeting with a wide variety of media outlets, and the North Coast Citizen was one of those newspapers selected for a visit.
Yes, thanks to Amy Barss of the World Affairs Council in Portland who was arranging the group’s meetings, and her family having a home in the area.
“We read the Citizen all the time, and since the group was in the area, I thought it would provide insight into a rural community,” said Barss.
The visitors are invited to the U.S. under the State Department’s International Visitor Leadership Program. The group of Uzbekistan journalists were here to explore the role of online journalism and blogging in the U.S. media, and visit U.S. magazines and newspaper offices.
Muslimbek Khamraev, Murod Chovush, Davronbek Tojialiev and Margarita Urmantseva settled in at an outdoor table and immediately remarked about the “fresh air and sunshine.”
The group had just come from the Portland area after visits with several media outlets, including the Oregonian.
They were fascinated by the scenic beauty, and in particular the views from Neahkahnie Mountain, and the pronunciations of, and meanings behind the names of the places.
Upon explaining the origin of “Neahkahnie” and the Native American legends, and pointing out a Manzanita bush, they wondered about Manzanita being a “real city” and the population of the area.
Through the translator they explained, “This is a very small city, and would be a village in our country.”
Over the course of an hour, the conversation covered local issues, such as tourism, the main industries, such as agriculture and logging, and touched on problems such as lack of housing, entry-level worker shortages and low-wage job opportunities.
When local seafood was mentioned, salmon, clams, crab, etc., they were intrigued about the bounty available from the nearby Pacific Ocean and the area rivers. It was suggested they consider staying for the Manzanita Farmers Market to experience the local foods and if their schedule had allowed, they were all wishing for more time in the area.
The group included an independent blogger, Khamraev; Chovush, a correspondent for Jahohir Magazine; Tojialiev, editor-in-chief of www.ziyouz.com information agency, and Urmantseva, editor of Pixland (www.pixland.uz) a fashion and arts magazine.
Umantseva spoke excellent English and had specific questions about the way of life in a small town on the West Coast in contrast to most of their travels – Manzanita was by far the smallest city they visited. The group started their journey in New York City, visiting public radio stations, NBC’s studios, then to Albany, New York, and Washington, D.C., and meetings at various media outlets, and which included stops at the Smithsonian Museums.
“We could have spent the entire trip at Smithosonia,” all nodded in agreement. Then south to Florida and stops in Tampa and St. Peterburg, included the offices of the Tampa Tribune, radio and TV stations. A cross-country flight and they visited Portland’s main newspapers, The Oregonian and Willamette Week.
“All the cities are very different,” said Margarita Urmantseva. “After New York, Tampa was very relaxed, and Portland is a growing up city,” she commented. “We’ve gathered lots of great ideas and practical resources to apply to websites.”
And, yes, of course, the Citizen has a website and Facbeook page – all anchored by the traditional print newspaper, and they were surprised to learn that Country Media, the paper’s parent company, had many community newspapers all with an online presence as well.
Several of the journalists as bloggers, have already posted articles about their journey, and Urmansteva is writing three articles and currently writing about Oregon.
“We’ll do a story on you, our trip to the Oregon Coast. Your paper will be international,” she said. “This is such a beautiful place. You are very lucky to live here.”
The group was headed north to the Daily Astorian’s offices that afternoon, then back to Portland and another day of sight-seeing up the Columbia Gorge to Multnomah Falls before they boarded a plane to return to Uzbekistan.
As we parted, the group was headed to Manzanita Beach – from Tampa, Florida and the Atlantic Ocean just days ago, to the upper left edge and the Pacific – a well-traveled group of Uzbekistan journalists were going to walk on both coasts. As they gained insight into the U.S. media, it was a pleasure to add a bit of our little community to their experience.