A founder of CSJMM returns to teach Reporting II

Margie Freaney

Margie Freaney was CSJMM’s first academic director. In 2001, the US Department of State and the Open Society Foundations, founded by George Soros, provided funding to launch a school that would train students to become professional journalists. ICFJ (International Center for Journalists) administered the grant. It hired Margie to be the academic director. Margie was also one of two full-time faculty members. In the first four years, a number of other faculty members taught specialized courses for shorter periods, including design, radio, television and ethics. In those early years, all of the instructors were journalists from the United States. A Georgian, Maia Mikashavidze, however, was the administrative dean from the beginning of the school and she later became the school’s dean.

By working together, they created a 1-year master’s program. Margie said the program’s goal was to prepare students for a career in journalism and to ensure their work would meet international standards of journalism. Some familiar faces were in the first-year’s class: Baadur Koplatadze, the current dean, Ana Keshelashvili, a faculty member on leave in order to study in the PhD program at the University of South Carolina, and Tiko Tsomaia, a CSJMM faculty member.

Margie described the situation in 2001, just before CSJMM opened. She said the MA program was unique in the 3-country Caucasus area at that time, because it was skills-based. Other universities offered journalism courses, but they emphasized theory rather than the practice of journalism. The quality of news on television and in magazines and newspapers needed improvement. CSJMM was created to produce graduates with excellent journalism skills, trained to an international standard. Margie and the other founders expected that the school’s graduates would enter news organizations in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan and improve their quality of journalism. And they have.

During its 10-year existence, the school has changed. Its MA program in Journalism and Media Management is now two years long rather than one year. With the extra year of time, the school supplements its professional skills courses with theoretical courses. Another change is that the school is run by Georgians and it relies primarily upon Georgian instructors, some of whom have received graduate degrees in the United States and the United Kingdom. The curriculum is being updated, and, with the help of a USAID grant administered by IREX, students will have access to new equipment, such as Apple computers with professional software and high quality cameras and camcorders. With the benefit of this equipment, CSJMM will soon launch a multimedia student-run news website.

As of January 2012, CSJMM has graduated 277 students, yet the need for additional well trained journalists continues, said Margie. Freedom of the press is still lacking in the Caucasus countries. Georgians, Azeris, and Armenians still want to attend CSJMM and learn to create fair, balanced, and accurate news stories. And Margie Freaney continues to teach these values in her reporting courses.

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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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