Four Ukrainian journalists from the Sevastopol Gazette (and two translators) are visiting the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. They are part of an international media exchange sponsored by IREX, a non-profit organization that fosters independent media in developing countries. Here's what I've learned about Ukrainian journalists in the last few days:
1. A photographer is a photographer is a photographer. It doesn't matter what country they come from, they all speak the same language -- the language of pictures. I figured this out at dinner when I asked what the best part of the day was and Andrey Lyubimov, the photographer from the Sevastopol newspaper, said something that made no sense to me because I don't speak Russian. But one word in English translated everything I needed to know. He mentioned the first name of the photo editor, who spent an hour with him during the day. That name told me everything I needed to know.
2. Reporters don't need to speak the same language. No matter how far away they live, reporters share the same need to write in their journalistic DNA. That became clear today when I asked Mariya Starostina, the reporter visiting from the Sevastopol Gazette, what she liked about her day. Her answer in the morning: meeting the shopping reporter. Her answer at lunch: going to city hall with the Hampton reporter. Her answer at dinner: spending time with the cops reporter. Oh yeah, no pattern there.
3. Publishers can talk about anything. When you put them in the same room, two leaders from very different newspapers (Daily Press Publisher Digby Solomon and Sevastopol Gazette Publisher Andriy Soboliev) can talk for hours and still be late from lunch because they aren't done yet. It just shows the underlying connection between anyone steering a news operation in the new media landscape.
4. Technical guys don't need to speak at all. I learned this from Ukrainian journalist Oleksandr Deinega who spent his day shadowing people who speak a language he doesn't. Of course, he speaks computer -- which is an international language if you just take the time to stop, watch and learn. And that's exactly what he did.
5. Food is an international language. Say what you want about the differences between people and/or journalists, I know the truth. I learned this at lunch after watching four pizzas disappear in less than an hour. Here's a universal truth: It doesn't matter where you come from. Good food ovecomes all language barriers.