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Foreign correspondents like to think of themselves as the lone wolves of journalism, prowling the world in search of a scoop. They treasure their independence. The father away from their editors, the happier they are.

However, in the U.S. capital, reporters from foreign media are the invisible men and women of the Washington press corps. Officials ignore them at press conferences. Even the media-savvy Barack Obama does not return their phone calls, one correspondent complained.

That is why many of them rely on the State Department’s Foreign Press Centers to bring newsmakers to them.

“This place is of great help,” said Joyce Karam, Washington correspondent for the London-based Arab newspaper, Al Hayat.

Miss Karam, speaking at a forum on the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Washington Foreign Press Center on Friday, arrived here to cover the 2004 presidential election. She explained that her readers in the Arab world have an insatiable appetite for U.S. news.

“There is always this phobia about what is happening in U.S. policy,” she said, adding that the “Zionist lobby is still in charge of policy.”

Paulo Sotero, a former Brazilian correspondent who came to Washington during the Carter administration, recalled the press center as “a very noisy place.”

“There was the tap, tap, tap, tap of the teletype machines,” he said, referring to the old wire service machines that were fixtures in the corners of most newsrooms. “There was only one television.”

Today, flat-screen televisions tuned to 24-hour cable news programs frame the wall of the lobby. The press center features a modern television studio, computers, television feeds, interview rooms and photocopiers.

Jim Dickmeyer, director of the Foreign Press Centers, which are also located in New York and Los Angeles, helps foreign reporters by arranging press conferences at the center in the National Press Building or at the State Department. The press centers also arrange trips throughout the United States.

“We established a place like this to communicate with the world,” he said.

Mr. Sotero added that foreign reporters can rely on the center for accurate news, even though it is a government-run service.

“I was never the target of propaganda at the Foreign Press Center,” he said.


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About the Author
James Morrison

James Morrison

James Morrison joined the The Washington Times in 1983 as a local reporter covering Alexandria, Va. A year later, he was assigned to open a Times bureau in Canada. From 1987 to 1989, Mr. Morrison was The Washington Times reporter in London, covering Britain, Western Europe and NATO issues. After returning to Washington, he served as an assistant foreign editor ...

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