Latest News from Transitions (TOL)

Past Events

Higher Visibility

Between 27 May and 3 June in Sarajevo, Transitions organized a workshop on multimedia storytelling for a group of 18 Romani and majority-community journalists from Macedonia, Serbia, and Bosnia. The course was part of Advancing Roma Visibility, a two-year project aimed at increasing the quantity, quality, and accessibility of media content for and on the Romani communities of the Balkans. Co-funded by the European Union, the project is being implemented by Transitions and its partners, Mediacentar Sarajevo, the Kali Sara Roma Information Center, the Novi Sad School of Journalism, and the Macedonian Institute for Media. The course, which included a series of practical exercises as well as theoretical instruction, was taught by Dean CK Cox, a photojournalist and trainer, and Nedim Dervisbegovic, the head of  the multimedia operation of RFE/RL’s Balkan service. In the coming months, participants will work in teams of two with a trainer on concrete Roma-related stories in their countries. The resulting content will be published on a regional news and information website for and on the Balkan Romani communities developed as part of this project.

The New Media Generation

TOL ran four seminars for journalism students in western Georgia in early June. Author and social media specialist Sandro Asatiani conducted the seminars, which were organized separately for 30 students from Kutaisi and Batumi universities. Through the seminars, students became acquainted with different new media and social media tools. Many began working on new media projects, and the most active students will be chosen to participate in a summer camp from 24-30 July hosted in Georgia by TOL, Agora, People in Need, and Civitas Georgia. Seminar leader Sandro Asatiani is the author of the first book on Georgian social media, printed with support from TOL. The current Georgia project is supported by the Transition Promotion Program of the Czech Foreign Ministry.

A “Western” Approach to Training?

One of TOL’s most prolific trainers, Michael J. Jordan, jumped into a recent debate on the merits of international journalism training. In a letter to the editor of Nieman Reports, the magazine of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. Jordan commented extensively on an article by journalism professor James Miller in the current issue. In his piece, titled “Questioning the Western Approach to Training,” Miller had questioned the “unprecedented international efforts to codify and inculcate Western-style news reporting and editing.” Giving examples from his experience as a journalism trainer, including at TOL, Jordan (who regularly teaches in our foreign correspondent course) argued that grand ideas of democratization or development are not what journalists like him think about when they try to explain watchdog journalism to young people. He concludes: “So what we need is more Western journalism training, not less. We should encourage our fellow global denizens to occasionally stir the pot in pursuit of shared, universal ideals, like transparency, free and fair elections, human rights, rule of law, social justice.” It probably goes without saying what side TOL takes in this debate.

Featured Content

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) often showcases the work produced through our grant programs. Some of the highlights from May include the following stories:

5 May 2011
A Bogus Focus on Hocus-Pocus
There’s a reason why Russians consult fortune-tellers and other quacks, and banning their ads won’t change that.
By Galina Stolyarova

6 May 2011
The Book of Laughter and Remembering
These essays help us make sense of the disjuncture between official histories of the communist era and the way that ordinary men and women are coming to remember it.
By Kristen Ghodsee

12 May 2011
Responsibility Without Rights?
Amid growing concern over the behavior of young Tajiks, many feel the president’s proposed solution takes away too many rights and overburdens parents.
By Farrukh Ahrorov

17 May 2011
The Other Aftermath of Osh
In addition to the human casualties, last year’s ethnic violence in Kyrgyzstan left a trail of shuttered, plundered, or yellow media outlets in its wake.
By Bakyt Ibraimov

19 May 2011
Medvedev’s Misjudgment
There are ways to clean up Russia’s courts, but publishing letters to judges isn’t one of them.
By Galina Stolyarova

31 May 2011
Tajik Theater Gets Its Encore
The country’s theater is becoming popular, and provocative, again.
By Salimjon Aioubov

Success Story

Lakeside Innovation

On 27-29 May, Transitions, Soros Kyrgyzstan, and Internet Movement — an NGO from Bishkek — held the first-ever Social Innovation Camp in Central Asia. The event, held on the Issyk-Kul lake in Kyrgyzstan, provided an opportunity for around 80 activists, techies, designers, and social innovators from across the region to compete in self-organized teams to build web-based tools for social impact. Funding for the event came from the United Nations Democracy Fund and Soros Kyrgyzstan.

Each project development team consisted of three to 12 people, including a programmer and designer. The camp team had preselected eight exceptional ideas to develop, including a project aimed at putting an end to school crime; a social network connecting patients with appropriate physicians; a project promoting environmental awareness among school children; a news portal bringing together conflicting Kyrgyz and Uzbek ethnic groups in southern Kyrgyzstan; and a youth Internet radio in Kyrgyzstan. The full list is available here (in Russian).

After a day of inauguration and two days of site development under the gaze of the picturesque Tien Shan mountains, teams presented their projects on the afternoon of the third day. The jury, after 15 minutes of deliberation, awarded first place to the project “Together for Good Deeds,” which connects people who need help with those who can best meet their needs. Second place went to “Stop Bullying,” a program devoted to improving the situation in schools through transparency and public attention, and third place was awarded to the author of an animated movie for his personal contribution to the team working on the ecological education project.

Popular social media outlets were successfully harnessed by teams to spread awareness of their projects’ progress and to invite testers to the recently launched sites. Some teams even used the sites to establish communication with external consultants. The team developing the social network for doctors and patients, for example, has already recruited 300 participants to its prototype website.

Stories about the camp appeared on national radio and television.


Current Projects

Belarus

TOL runs a citizen journalism site, offers free new media consulting to NGOs, and trains prospective citizen journalists in the regions.  

Central Asia

TOL offers distance-learning courses, new media training, and traditional journalism skill-building to the region’s journalists, student-journalists, and bloggers.

Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova

In all three countries, TOL runs programs designed to promote the use of new media and social media among journalists, civil society organizations, and young people.

Russia

TOL is working with the U.S.-based Poynter Institute to localize the popular News U distance education platform into Russian.

Serbia

TOL is running a training project for journalists covering issues related to the environment.

Multimedia Training

TOL is training Roma and majority community journalists in multimedia story-telling, with a special focus on Roma issues.

Roma Journalism Training

TOL runs a multi-faceted program aimed at improving the skills of young, Romani journalists in Central and Southeastern Europe.