Interviews continued

Copyright Keith Kenney, 2011

I don’t know why Max Grubb, one of the judges screening applicants for CSJMM, looked so stern when I took his photo. Max is an easy-going, fun guy.

When we ask: “Why do you want to become a journalist?” applicants rarely give answers like, “To serve as a watchdog of government and industry,” or “To improve the news available to the public.” Nor do applicant seem particularly interested in getting a story byline, and they are not loyal readers/viewers of any news source. We will need to explain the values of journalism and then we’ll need to persuade students to adopt these values.

Personally, I find these quotes inspiring. They all come from the same source, a book about Chinese journalism:

“I used to think the most important thing for a reporter was to be where the news is and be the first to know. Now I feel a reporter should be able to effect change. Your reporting should move people and motivate people to change the world. Maybe this is too idealistic. Young people who want to be journalists must, first, study and, second, recognize that they should never be the heroes of the story. ..A journalist must be curious, and must be humble. –Zhou Yijun”― Judy Polumbaum, China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism

“I think journalism anywhere should be based on social justice and impartiality, making contributions to society as well as taking responsibility in society. Whether you are capitalist or socialist or Marxist, journalists should have the same professional integrity. –Tan Hongkai”― Judy Polumbaum, China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism

“I would tell young journalists to be brave and go against the tide. When everyone else is relying on the internet, you should not; when nobody’s walking, you should walk; when few people are reading profound books, you should read. … rather than seeking a plusher life you should pursue some hardship. Eat simple food. When everyone’s going for quick results, pursue things of lasting value. Don’t follow the crowd; go in the opposite direction. If others are fast, be slow. — Jin Yongquan”― Judy Polumbaum, China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism

“I think that of all the principles for journalism, the most important is to complicate simple things and simplify complicated things. At first sight, you may think something is simple, but it may conceal a great deal. However, facing a very complex thing, you should find out its essence. -Jin Yongquan”― Judy Polumbaum, China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism

As I was listening to the applicants, I was thinking about what new master’s CSJMM may launch with the help of USC’s SJMC. If CSJMM wants to create a master’s degree that matches the desires of these applicants, then it will be a sports and entertainment media degree.

One applicant said she’d like to review the previous evening’s theatrical performance, which she had attended (tickets were $120!) The play starred John Malkovich. According to The Messenger Online: The stage-play, directed by Michael Sturminger, is based on the real life-story of a convicted murderer. It features a baroque orchestra, two sopranos and one actor and opened to a Georgian audience for the first time on September 14. “I always wanted to come to Tbilisi, so it was a natural thing to do. Theatre and opera you do live and there is a good audience which is very important for us. We are glad to be here,” Malkovich told the media earlier that day at the Radisson hotel.

Unfortunately, Malkovich may not have had a “good” audience. The applicant said that the audience did not applaud; in fact it snickered throughout the play and it didn’t turn off its cellphones. But here is the lede from Georgia Today: The festival featured an outstanding opening-show performance by Hollywood movie star John Malkovich. His role in The Infernal Comedy – Confession of a Serial Killer was enthusiastically received by hundreds of people and Malkovich will undoubtedly be remembered for his exceptional performance that enchanted the Georgian audience that attended.

But later the newspaper reviewer wrote: He welcomed the public with a brief, charming speech; primarily speaking about his private two-day experience visiting Tbilisi… a comedy was not exactly what the audience was in for. Perhaps the audience was waiting to see an ordinary opera/play about the murder of women, accompanied by an orchestra playing on period instruments, two sopranos and an actor?

Needless to say, the forecast changed completely when Malkovich took the stage in the role of Jack, who is laughing about his “Confession of a serial killer.”

And here’s the end of the story: “After these words Malkovich received a rousing applause from the audience.

The response was overwhelming.”

Based on the interviews, I also believe it would be good to visit 3-5 universities and recruit future students for CSJMM. Why wait until weeks before the school year starts? Why rely upon word-of-mouth, social media, and the school’s website to let people know about its master’s degrees and scholarships? We need to talk to graduating seniors in business, political science, journalism, and other majors.

One of the more interesting applicants was a young man of Armenian descent living in an area of Georgia with many Azeris. He says that the Armenians and Azeris get along like brothers in this area, but neither group (nor the applicant) may speak Georgian well. He wants to attend CSJMM so he can learn Georgian and journalism better and then use his reporting to help integrate the (approximately 250,000) Armenians into Georgian society.


About keithrkenney
Keith Kenney is a professor of visual communication at the University of South Carolina. He is living in Tbilisi, Georgia, for a year. This blog is about several topics. "CSJMM-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management in Tbilisi, Georgia. "USC-Journalism" is about the students, faculty and staff members of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC) at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. CSJMM and SJMC are recipients of a "Journalism School Partnership" program grant from the US Department of State. The purpose of this $750,000 grant is to improve CSJMM and ensure its sustainability. "Tbilisi, Georgia" is about Susanna Melo and my experiences in Tbilisi. "Columbia, SC" will be about our experiences in our home town--Columbia--when we return home. "Georgia" is about Susanna and my experiences when we travel in Georgia outside of Tbilisi. "United States" is about our experiences traveling in the US. "Films and Photography" is about two documentary films I'm working on in Georgia. One story follows how Adishi handles the rapid tourism that is being developed in Svaneti. The other story follows Tamaz Jalagania, who is a craftsman of swords and guns, an opera singer, and an extraordinary storyteller. "Scholarship" is about my current books, articles, reviews, and grants.

One Response to Interviews continued

  1. bazian says:

    Thanks for finding me an interesting applicant 🙂 Nice to see that you’ve covered our interviews.

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