Nightline August 18th 2011: Internet Brides: From Ukraine With Love
Since A Foreign Affair was featured on ABC's Nightline (August 18th, 2011, Bill Weir anchor) a lot of people have asked, "Why would you allow Nightline total access to A Foreign Affair?" Some were not so nice - "Are you nuts – A Foreign Affair giving Nightline free reign for an entire tour, why?????"
It's true - I may be a little nuts after running A Foreign Affair for the last 16 years (just kidding - I wouldn't trade it for the world!) but the simple answer is that at A Foreign Affair we have nothing to hide and we welcome the media, including Nightline. In those 16 years we have opened our tours to the Washington Post, 60 Minutes, BBC, MTV, WeTV, the Oprah Winfrey Network, Harper's Magazine, National Geographic, and many others. Nightline is just the latest in a long line of journalistic media that have sought to 'expose" our singles tours.
I love it when news organizations like Nightline do stories about A Foreign Affair because it shows the world that the stereotypes the media loves to encourage really do not exist. The attention helps us to get the word out to single men and women that it is OK to think outside the box with regards to the most important choice you will ever make – who it is you will marry. That isn't to say that many of these so-called "objective" media outfits don't attempt to slant the story to their preconceived idea of what this is all about. (Controversy sells - otherwise they wouldn't be here.) Not all of them, but the ones that do make it fairly obvious, as Nightline did.
Since receiving so much feedback on the Nightline piece, I thought I would write a little about the experience and try to highlight a few points I didn't get to make or that were edited out in the final show. Like anything in life, it wasn't all good or all bad; it was a major network story and the networks thrive on controversy for ratings. All in all, I think the piece was fairly good and I will try to let you know what I liked about it and what I didn't.
First I want to say that the producer, Victoria, and Bill Weir were wonderful to work with. I have a lot of respect for Victoria, who I think tried to keep the show as balanced as she could while still providing the network with the controversy they needed. I can think of at least two instances where we had journalists write stories that were rejected by their editors as being too positive and who were forced to write more negative articles. I get it,
and I understand why they had the negative slant they had, but while they were there things were much different….
Victoria had contacted me several months earlier and told me about her idea for the show. She said she had looked at many sites and could easily see that we were the largest and most respected company and wanted to do a story. I told her that we were interested as long as they did not interfere with the tour in any way, the men and women they filmed agreed to it and they tried to present a balanced picture. She could pick any tour she wished and I said we would give her full access to the company, the staff, the tour activities, and to the men and women to the extent that they agreed.
It took her a couple of months to decide, finally settling on the Odessa tour in March 2011. I was considering going on that trip anyway, so I was present as the tour leader. We had a great group of guys, close to 30 in total. I sent all of the men an E-mail, and called all of them personally, to talk to them about the fact that we were going to have Media. We do that whenever there is going to be any kind of outside media, and the men always have the choice of whether or not to participate. We do not allow the Media to influence the tour in any way, so if some clients are not agreeable it is never a problem. About 10 men or so were OK with participating and Nightline chose 3 or 4 to focus on. What was misleading about the piece is that you see the results from only a few of the men. There were successes on that tour and some of those men will marry, but normally it can take a year or more. (In my case it took over a year and a half.)
Victoria was on the flight from JFK over to Odessa and she and the Nightline crew traveled with the group to all three cities (the Odessa tour includes Nikolaev and Kherson), attended all the socials, and filmed anything and everything they wanted. They also spoke with many of the women, using their own interpreters. A Foreign Affair had absolutely no control over whom they were interviewing or what anyone was saying, which is the way it should be.
It was interesting to watch the stories as they developed the ups and the downs that go along with any tour. I always tell guys that this is real life and there will be good, bad and ugly, but there will never be more opportunity than what you will find on an A Foreign Affair tour.
Victoria and the cameraman, Max, were with us the entire time. Bill, the anchor, flew in when we were
already in the second city, Nikolaev, and arrived towards the end of the second social. He was very personable, and seemed to be taking it all in.
The next morning they were busy interviewing the men and women and going along on dates with some of them. Again, they were only following a small fraction of the overall group. The tour then moved on to the final city of Kherson and had the third social. Bill was present for the entire event and really seemed to be surprised at how many beautiful women were there. He mentioned that many of them were approaching him as well, although, of course, he told them he was married and working. He did receive a lot of attention, as did most of the men.
The next day the crew stayed with the men they were following and interviewed more of the ladies. I was a little surprised how many of the women were willing to do interviews and even invite the crew to their apartments. We departed for Odessa the day following that and Bill had to leave for another story, but Victoria and Max the cameramen stayed behind to continue to follow the men and see how things finally wrapped up.
Three or four months after the tour Victoria and Bill flew to Phoenix to interview Tanya and me. They also visited our corporate office and spoke to many of our staff, although none of those interviews appeared in the piece. The interviews at my home were cordial for the most part except for the last session where Bill asked questions that I felt were out of line. I don't hold it against him - I understand why he asked the questions he did, and I answered them appropriately. I just hope that, by bringing more light to this
process, more people will understand that this really is not that unique or different from dating here in the US, other than the fact that for men the odds of success go way up (for a number of reasons I won't bore you with in this article).
Throughout the entire experience all the Nightline people were very friendly and never intruded upon anyone's privacy. I thought they were very professional and did a good job of trying to get the story.
Unfortunately, I felt the story was negatively biased from the beginning just from the tone that Bill used as he narrated. I knew this was not going to be a 30-minute commercial for A Foreign Affair but I was disappointed with several things that Nightline portrayed.
1. Bill started the piece by saying that a bellman had propositioned him at his hotel when he checked in. He used the word "pimp." I thought that was very offensive, as it had nothing to do with A Foreign Affair or the service he was there to report on. It was a totally isolated, unrelated incident at a hotel in the Ukraine where, unfortunately, those things can and do happen, but it had no connection to us or any of the women Bill met via A Foreign Affair. It seemed a gratuitous way of implying that some kind of prostitution was going on during the tour, which could not be further from the truth. If you noticed, that subject never came up again in the piece because, again, it had nothing to do with A Foreign Affair. I feel that Nightline did a disservice to the women participating in the show by even hinting that anything like that was going on with them, when it was obviously not the case.
2. Bill implied that President Bush was so concerned with men dating internationally that he and Congress got together and enacted IMBRA (International Marriage Broker Regulation Act). In truth IMBRA failed on its own for 2 years and could not pass. The only way they got it to pass was to include it as a rider in the Violence Against Women Act, which was up for a re-appropriations vote. This happened very quickly and very quietly and since that law is so long and so involved I doubt very much that President Bush even knew it was in their or what it was about. They also implied that we were against it. I told Bill that we were not against it but that it was a flawed law because it did not require other large matchmakers that deal with international profiles (almost all do now) to comply with it, nor foreign companies. There were several other problems with it as well. There were and still are more effective ways to get the women the information they should have. As a matter of fact, women right here in the US should demand that they have the same information from matchmaking companies they use as well - according to the Justice department and other studies, US women are much more at risk for spousal abuse than Foreign women who marry US men.
3. Bill actually had the nerve to even bring up human trafficking. This really surprised and upset me. In the 16 years I have been doing this, this is the first time any media has even hinted at human trafficking. Bill was on the tour, he met the men and the women, he experienced it, he knew that it had absolutely nothing to do with human trafficking but again, I believe because of the need for
network controversy and buzz words they just had to get that loaded phrase in there to justify airing the show. I think that question was written even before they experienced the tour. We have been doing this for 16 years and have helped thousands of singles from all around the world to meet and marry, including myself. For Nightline or anyone to imply something as illegal and disgusting as human trafficking is nothing but insulting. Again, this was just another way that they could throw a loaded term such as human trafficking to slant the story. Regardless of my reply he got the term in which makes for good TV and good ratings.
There were a few other negative points that I did not agree with but the three I mentioned above really stood out for me.
I must say that I also had a problem with the close where he talked about a sales pitch. This is not a sales pitch; I don't have a "sales pitch". In 16 year I have never had to 'sell' what we do. I met my wife because of A Foreign Affair, as did both my partners and about 20 of our employees. There is no need to "sell" this; it is one of the best options for both single men and women who are serious about marriage that exists today, simple as that!
Now For the Positive
1. I think it is great that they did the story in the first place! Yes there was a negative slant, but for those that understand how the media works and can read between the lines, I think many men saw an incredible opportunity that prior to the show may have never occurred to them.
2. I think it is great that they showed the socials. Bill had mentioned that a man had written a woman who was supposed to be at the airport and for some reason she did not come, but, according to Bill, that was not a problem because the next day he was at a social with 10 women to every man. Yes! That is what I have been preaching for years. That is why it is a huge mistake to go over on your own to just meet one woman, anything can and does happen. As Nightline so aptly demonstrated, when you take the tour you have so many other options!
3. I liked the way it showed our staff and our foreign offices and the support that the men on the tour receive.
4. I liked the way the men talked about their experiences and the tour. Most were very happy and excited about what was happening. Yes, they did focus on a client that went a little too fast in purchasing a promise ring after just one date with a woman and it unfortunately didn't work out. These things happen, we do not pay the women to say 'yes" we do not pay the women to do anything so this is real life and there are going to be ups and downs, I think it was great that they showed that. There will be some men from that tour that will marry women they met; it would be great to see Nightline revisit the entire group about a year from now to see what really happened.
5. I liked the fact that even though they tried to make it sound like the 4 men that they followed were somehow frustrated, all 4 of them went back, one quit his job and sold everything he owned and moved there! (he is still there as of the writing of this article) Those actions speak volumes about the opportunities that are there for those willing to take a chance and I am glad that Nightline portrayed that.
6. I liked the fact that they interviewed several women that they chose on their own and the ones that they showed all seemed very sincere and all said they were looking for the man of their dreams and would leave their country if they found him.
7. I like the fact that they showed that this is a two way street, that it is just as important for the woman to be attracted to and like the man as it is for the man to like the woman, and the women have as much, if not more, control over the entire process as the men.
8. I thought it was great that they showed men on their dates, visiting the women at their home, meeting the parents etc. etc. This is very common and happens dozens of times on every tour that we do.
9. I liked the fact that they showed the venues, hotels and transportation vehicle that we use for our groups. If you were paying attention in the beginning you noticed a large newer private bus that was waiting for the clients at the airport, and then checking in to one of the nicest hotels in Odessa, and the venues that we used for the socials were very nice as well.
10. I think what I liked best about the Nightline show was the fact that despite Bill's negative tone and slant, it showed a very positive experience for all involved. The funny thing is, you could have taken the same exact footage that they showed without the audio and had another person narrate the show and it would have been extremely positive. This goes to show that in the entire two weeks of filming it was very difficult for them to uncover anything really negative concerning the tours. Just because everyone did not find true love and some men and some woman had their hearts broken does not mean that the tour was a failure. In fact that is all part of it and happens on every tour. The only way for everyone to be totally happy and not go through any disappointment at all is to stage it and pay the women to act how they think the men want them to act and that is something that we will never do. This is real life and in real life you are going to have relationships that work and those that don't that is just the way it is. It is a shame they could not show all the guys and all their stories, which would have balanced things our even more, but again this is real life and not everyone wants to be a star on Nightline.
In closing I do want to thank Nightline again for providing us with an opportunity to let people know what this is really like. I do think it would have been interesting if they would have invited me on live with them after the show aired and allowed me to counter some of the points that Bill made during the piece without the benefit of the editing department - now that would have been some interesting TV!
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article please feel free to E-mail me here at A Foreign Affair, at firstname.lastname@example.org We cannot wait to introduce you to the woman of your dreams, and quite possibly your future wife, and life partner.
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