As Centre College prepares for tonight’s vice-presidential debate, media personalities from all over the world have begun arriving in Danville.
About 3,200 media personnel are expected to attend the event. For some, it will be their first time in Kentucky, while others have visited the state before.
Carina Bergfeldt, a print journalist with Aftonbladet, from Stockholm, Sweden, arrived Wednesday afternoon. She covered the presidential debate in Denver and will be in the United States through the election.
“It’s exotic and beautiful here. I like how people decorate their houses for the event. I was fascinated with the political signs,” Bergfeldt said, explaining that in Sweden it is considered impolite to ask a person for whom they are voting.
She likes that people here are proudly taking a stand for the candidate they support.
There are an estimated 574 foreign personnel here, some, like Bergfeldt, are from outlets that aren’t as well known to Americans. However, she says the American political environment is of great interest to Swedes.
In fact, she speculates that there will be tens of thousands of people in Sweden staying up to keep an eye on what she is posting during tonight’s debate. It will be 3 a.m. there.
There are other possible reasons this election and the vice-presidential debate in Danville are being pushed into the international spotlight.
According to Dominic Waghorn of Sky News, a 24-hour broadcast news outlet from the United Kingdom, the first presidential debate brought Republican Mitt Romney back into the minds of those in the U.K.
“I think people in the U.K. thought that Romney was fading fast, and that’s turning around,” Waghorn said, explaining that people are pondering if Obama will be only a one-term president. “We’ve noticed a real uptake in appetite, and that makes it hugely important.”
The election in America is important for the world, said Xian Wen, of the People’s Daily newspaper from China. Wen, like most journalists visiting from around the world, has been following the process for quite some time. He started by covering the Iowa Caucus and was able to visit the Democratic and Republican national conventions.
“As a journalist, to be on the spot is the best way to understand the people,” Wen said.
All three believe the decisions made in this election will have an impact worldwide. They also note the impact the vice-presidential debate is having on Danville.
“For a small town like Danville, it is very impressive,” Wen said, explaining that many cities in China boast numbers of 20 million or more, so this is a quite different experience.
Waghorn echoes this, saying, “It’s quite inspiring that you’ve got all these rituals of great American politics happening in a town of 16,000 people.”
National media, which is estimated to represent 42 outlets, have been equally impressed with the region.
“It’s a great state,” said Eric Andre with the Associated Press, which is based in Washington, D.C. “Seems like a gorgeous area.” This is his first visit to Kentucky.
For CNN’s Paul Steinhauser, this marks the first time to Danville, but the third trip to the commonwealth. He explains he visited because of the Clinton and Obama primaries in 2008 and the Rand Paul and Jack Conway election in 2010.
Steinhauser said Kentucky has been “drawing us in” for the last several years, becoming a national player in political realms.
He finds it intriguing that the debates are being placed in such diverse arenas, with the first and fourth being held in battleground states, the second in an expected Republican state and the third in New York, which is predicted to be a Democratic state.
Mitchell Landsberg of the Los Angeles Times, who also arrived in Danville on Wednesday afternoon, commented on the number of political signs but said he figured that was in relation to the debate coming to town. Mostly, however, Landsberg notes the scenery and “how beautiful it is,” he said.
The locals have made a positive impact on the media, as well.
“People have been incredibly welcoming and interested in who we are and where we’re from,” said Alan Fisher of Aljazeera’s English Channel.
Fisher is based in Washington, D.C., and says his staff knew Danville was a prospective location for this debate, which has turned out “really, pretty cool.”
Louisville anchor Scott Reynolds of WAVE 3 says he simply loves being in Danville, because it has a very Americana feeling and is packed with such history.
“It’s amazing,” he said.
Reynolds also has noticed how involved the students have become at Centre. “It’s neat to see kids engaged,” he said.