Hooray for Transparency International!

Because the Caucasus School of Journalism and Media Management (CSJMM) is revising its curriculum, I’ve been thinking about the core mission of journalism. But to arrive at the core, I’ll start at the periphery, which is journalism, but not the most essential part of journalism. What about the opinion section, my favorite part of a newspaper? No. Opinion pieces may be stimulating, and they may be critical, but with some exceptions, such as Nicholas Kristof, opinion writers are commenting on others’ reporting rather than discovering new facts. What about the arts? Are stories about books, movies, theater, music, and TV at the core? No. Critics’ reports may help readers to think about the arts in a new way, and they may be entertaining, but they are not at the core because they are too similar to opinion pieces. I feel the same way about dining, fashion, home & garden, weddings, technology, and travel. What about sports? No. Sports are further from the core than the arts or style sections because most sports reporters are not critics—at least not of their “home” teams. Sports facts—such as scores and statistics—are generally obvious or provided to reporters by teams. What about science and health? No, because science and health articles are generally paraphrasing research studies conducted by others; these articles are not original reports of facts. Business articles should be part of the core mission of journalism, but they often resemble sports articles in that the facts are generally obvious or provided to reporters—in this case by companies. What about world news, such as reports on earthquakes, floods, plane crashes and other disasters; revolts, wars, and other conflicts; foreign leaders and elections? Again, I’d argue no, at least if someone other than a resident journalist reports on the news event. That leaves local and national news as well as politics. The core of journalism can be found in these sections when reporters write about something that someone in power does not want the general public to learn about and understand. Reporters’ essential function is to reveal the greed, errors, and misuse of power in government, industry, or the military. In others words, I hope that CSJMM’s revised curriculum will lead to investigative reporting.

Ideally, CSJMM would produce graduates who could do the type of investigative reporting done by Transparency International (TI). This global civil society organization reveals occurrences of corruption and its impact. For example, in Georgia, TI just released a 50-page report showing that “just a handful of companies are in control of almost the entire advertising sector in the country.” http://dfwatch.net/how-georgias-media-is-censored-87625 Even worse, Saakashvili’s government is pressuring this advertising monopoly to only advertise in pro-government media. A TI report states: ““TI Georgia has seen advertising contracts that advertisers had signed with Kavkasia TV, an independent Tbilisi-based station, and the opposition-affiliated Maestro TV, that were canceled and withdrawn by the client a few days later, because of political pressure.” In other words, government-advertising cooperation could put opposition media out of business. That’s a form of censorship. To understand the government-advertising-media connections, click on TI’s chart.

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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.

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