At least 4,000 foreign journalists to cover election

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The whole planet is obsessed with the U.S. presidential election - and the world’s news media is poised to deliver the goods, subject to interpretation in more ways than one. It is one big cultural moment.

As of Monday more than 4,000 foreign journalists have been granted credentials to cover the campaign finale, according to State Department spokesman Keith Peterson.

“Interest is unprecedented,” he said. “And every journalist is looking for their local angle. It’s huge in Bangladesh. In France, ‘Le Figaro’ devoted five pages to the election. The Russians and Nigerians want to know how foreign policy will affect them, the Irish want to talk about the Irish ancestry of Sen. Barack Obama on his mother’s side.”

The Vietnamese, on the other hand, want to hear about Sen. John McCain, a prisoner of war in Hanoi four decades ago, while the Kenyan audience is keen for insight about Mr. Obama’s father, a native of the country.

The Voice of America (VOA) is providing live broadcasts from both countries.

That is just the beginning for the federal agency, which will be broadcasting worldwide in 45 languages - including Creole, Urdu, Mandarin and Albanian - to a potential audience of 134 million.

There will be satellite TV, plus online and network broadcasts. But some audiences will pick up the election returns via shortwave radio.

“It’s not just the American electorate which is energized. It’s worldwide, and it goes beyond the uniqueness of the candidates,” said VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch. “People are trying to understand what America is all about, and how it all works - what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.”

The world stage is complex, Mr. Redisch said, with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the economic turmoil and the final days of the Bush administration.

“This audience is all looking at the same thing: What does this mean to me?” he added.

Alhurra, the American-funded Arabic-language television network, will offer 23 hours of live continuous coverage of the elections with reporters in Phoenix, Chicago, Miami, Columbus, Ohio, and Raleigh, N.C. - as well as reporters from Europe and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, some overseas news organizations - like their American counterparts - have favored Mr. Obama with positive coverage, not to mention endorsements from publications such as De Volkskrant of the Netherlands and Britain’s Financial Times newspaper, the Times of London and Economist magazine.

Not all foreign press is Obama-centric.

“We get almost nothing from the Obama campaign. They know that Europeans don’t vote,” correspondent Anna Bosch of Television of Spain told Chicago radio station WBBM.

Still, the variety of coverage is of note. While Brazilian journalists will venture out on Route 66 in search of the great American voting experience, Al Jazeera will send 50 reporters to towns in Virginia, Florida, Ohio and other swing states. More than 50 French journalists also will offer their take on the election from Chicago, Phoenix and Manhattan, N.Y., according to Agence France-Presse .

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