Swedish Journalists Share Their Experiences About Being in the U.S During Midterm Elections

Swedish journalists and members of the Palmetto Council for International Visitors, Jim Byrum and Lisa Ewart, stand outside of the State House in Columbia, South Carolina while on a tour of the city.

Swedish journalists visiting Politico in Rosslyn, VA, during 2018 U.S. midterm elections coverage.

The Swedish-U.S Foreign Policy and Media Exchange program, organized for the U.S Embassy in Stockholm by Meridian International Center brought seven central and southern Swedish journalists and editors to the U.S. from November 3-9, 2018, to examine the contemporary landscape of U.S media and political journalism. This program explored the media’s role in navigating and covering today’s political climate, challenges facing traditional media and the future of transatlantic writing. The group of Swedish journalists met with news organizations in Washington, D.C and in Columbia, South Carolina, including Politico, Axios, the Heritage Foundation’ media and communications department, The University of South Carolina’s communications department and COLAToday, among many more.

Throughout the program we spoke with the participants about their experiences:  


Meridian: What motivated you to apply for this exchange program, and what do you hope to learn? 

Participant: Per Selstam, Editor and Chief, Swedish News Agency - “The Swedish parties are very keen on going over and studying the American elections and using the same methods in Sweden in the upcoming elections. Usually we see in the Presidential elections almost that we have a copy of methods, of themes, and so on that are almost more successful than your elections. So, for us it is very important to study the U.S.”  


On Sunday, November 6th, the Swedish journalist group attended a Prince William County Get Out the Vote Rally in Manassas, VA. They were able to interact with Prince William County locals and speak with delegates and members of the local government.

Meridian: Why is it important for you to be in Washington, D.C. right now during the 2018 U.S. midterm elections? 

Participant: Jacob Sidenvall, Editorial Writer, Smålandsposten: “To learn that the District of Columbia started with an idea instead of a small village growing and that is a unique thing. This whole town is constructed and based on ideas instead of physical necessities.”  


Meridian: Do you have any previous experience covering US elections in-country? If so, how does the climate compare then to now? 

Participant: Daniel Persson Editorial Writer, Swedish News Agency: “We try really hard not to write about foreign policy, but even for us it’s a no brainer to write at least one text about U.S presidential elections. Meeting people, like regular people at the rally [Prince William County Get Out the Vote Rally] yesterday, is a great look behind the scenes.”  

Kajsa Kettil Political Editor, Jönköpings-Posten: “The rally [Prine William County Get Out the Vote Rally] was so spontaneous, for us being curious about politics, and so it’s another dimension of knowing it [politics] and I think that can be useful when we go back to Sweden and write texts. For example, we can use our new friends [as sources and subjects]. It will be easy for our readers to get to know what really happened, like a scene or something, and we can put it in a Swedish context and see what is different and what is similar. For example, the polarization between democrats and republicans, we can see it in Sweden, but not as much as here.

While visiting the University of South Carolina, the journalists from Sweden were able to tour the communications department, seeing production studios for the student run news station.


Meridian: What has been the most memorable experience and/or impression in this midterms exchange program? 

Participant: Lena Richardson Editor in Chief, Filipsstads-Tidningen: “The voting rally. I have never been to something like that at all. It was so overwhelming in many ways.”  

Kajsa Kettil  Political Editor, Jönköpings-Posten: “It was a place where things actually happened.”  

Jakob Styrenius Editorial Writer, Västerviks-Tidningen: “The rally was the most memorable. The most interesting and stimulating though, is being here in South Carolina. The tour we took of the city was very rewarding, it’s important to understand this region.


Meridian: What lessons or insights are you taking home? How do you anticipate applying and/or sharing with your community? 

Participant: Lena Richardson Editor in Chief, Filipsstads-Tidningen : “I will have to go home and think about all the people I have met, their passions, and how I can use that in my daily life and at my newspaper.”