When a Tbilisi investigative report is censored, a US school helps

I read an interesting article in Nieman Reports (Harvard) about how the School of Journalism at Kent State helped an investigative team of Tbilisi journalists to get around Georgian censors. I particularly approve of Kent State adding a poll and free blogging software to the investigative video. I also appreciate their use of free software whenever possible. Does the article give you any ideas for the way that CSJMM can collaborate with the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at USC?

The Investigative Journalist’s Digital Tool Kit

By Joe Murray

Working, as we do, in our digital, converged-media school of journalism at Kent State, we are learning to use the new technology to educate the next generation of journalists. When my colleague Karl Idsvoog first showed me the video of the investigative report made by the journalists in Georgia, I was confident that our technology could overcome the circumstance of not being able to have their report shown by news outlets in their country.

Our work began with using a Web template (Adobe Dreamweaver) as the container for the story’s supporting photographs and text, which we wrote in English while we awaited the Georgian translation. An online poll was built into the Web package, added in a few minutes with an inexpensive Web service [see note 1]. Free blogging software [see note 2] provided interaction and feedback for users and, finally, the DV tape Karl had brought back from Georgia was converted to a file [see note 3] and uploaded to our fastest media server.

Once the Web site was constructed, I sent its URL to Alex Kvatashidze to review. With a nine-hour time difference between Kent State and Tbilisi, I didn’t see his response until morning, when his note arrived with bad news. The video wouldn’t play in Georgia even though it looked fine on my Mac, so I began testing the video on other computers and in different browsers. I could find no problem, so I exported it again using different formats with new compression settings and uploaded each for Kvatashidze to try. Each test we did concluded with an e-mail from Georgia containing the same disappointing message, “We can’t see the video.”

The few hours we’d anticipated this project would take stretched into a week. I consulted others for alternatives and insight. “Do you think it’s bandwidth?,” one of my colleagues suggested. “Is the government blocking ports?,” volunteered another. “Maybe it’s a server problem.” Amid this uncertainty, one of my students offered what turned out to be a way to make this work. “I upload my videos to Google—they work great,” he said, referring to the free video hosting service provided by the Internet search engine. Like YouTube, these services make it easy for anyone with an Internet connection to share video with users around the world— even in Georgia. Provide content, and these services provide the server space and resources that allow users to search for and link to your video, submit content, and even embed it in their own Web pages.

After we uploaded the video from Georgia to Google, it worked perfectly.

“In the long run of history, the censor and inquisitor have always lost,” said historian Alfred Griswold. For Georgians, overcoming the censorship of this investigative report was possible in only one week.

Here’s the link:


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.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: