“Undermining” his home

From the left, Salome Sepashvili, Zaza Burchuladze ,Zaza Rusadze, Salome Jashi, and Ana Dziapshpa are members of a panel listening to CSJMM students pitch their ideas for a documentary film; copyright Keith Kenney, 2012.

CSJMM students had 14 minutes to pitch their ideas for a documentary film to a panel of film experts. They showed a 4-8 minute trailer and then fielded questions. Their presentations and their films were in Georgian, so all I could do was watch the moving images.

The two best ideas will receive $3,000 each from IREX so that students can complete their documentary films.

One winner concerns a tunnel being built underneath a village. Some of the houses have already collapsed due to the underground construction. One man, whose home sits directly above the tunnel’s path, works on the crew constructing the tunnel. Six days a week, he goes down into tunnel, works all day,  then returns above ground to see how much damage has been done to his home. He is literally undermining his home.

Zura Nizharadze, in the documentary film, Teacher From Khaishi.

The other winner concerns the Svaneti village  Khaishi, which will be flooded when a power plant is constructed. Teacher From Khaishi tells the story of Zura Nizharadze, who leads the opposition to the project. His family’s house will be destroyed as a result of Khudoni hydro-power plant construction, but he and other villagers don’t want to re-locate. Teacher From Khaishi shows how villagers currently lives and it includes interviews about their reaction to the construction.

Based upon the enthusiasm and passion students have been demonstrating, I suspect that even without funding, several students will continue to shoot and edit their films. Icommend Nino Orjonikidze and Tiko Nachkebia for doing such a great job of motivating and teaching the 2nd-year students. Panel members said they were well prepared and they were surprised by the high quality of students’ work.

Process of revising CSJMM’s curriculum

The faculty’s major task from January to April—in addition to teaching—is revising the curriculum. With the help of Tamuna Gabisonia, journalism education officer for IREX and Tamuna Kakulia, project manager for IREX, we created a 20-step action plan for accomplishing our goals. We’ve completed or almost completed these steps:

• Assess the need for a revised curriculum. We conducted several focus groups of CSJMM students and alumni, and we interviewed media managers in Tbilisi.

• Analyze this data and review program goals and objectives. We analyzed tis data and we rewrote the mission statement for the MA-Journalism program.

• Prepare questions for the Accreditation Department. After learning as much as we could from studying the website for the Ministry of Education, and after discussing the revision process, we created a list of questions.

• Meet with a representative from the Accreditation Department. We met with Giorgi Tskhvediani, head of Georgia’s Accreditation Department, and I wrote about our useful meeting in an earlier blog post.

• Using the Ministry of Education’s Qualifications Framework to develop program-level learning outcomes. We need to do this to ensure that our mission statement matches our program learning outcomes. We should vote to approve this document on March 12.

• Develop a marketing report on the need for our type of MA-Journalism program. Jaba Bokuchava, CSJMM’s marketing manager, is working on this report.

• Develop a list of courses, their prerequisites, the number of credit hours for each course, and a schedule of when these courses will be taught. We are completing this process. In spring we should be able to publish a 2-year calendar of courses on CSJMM’s website. We’re very excited about some of the new courses we are creating.

• Map the program-level learning outcomes onto the list of courses. We need to do this to ensure that our program-level learning outcomes are met in one or more courses.

We still need to work on following steps:

• Define rules for awarding alternative credits.

• Develop brief course descriptions.

• Develop a grading system (we do not need to change GIPA’s existing grading system).

• Develop a structure and guidelines for final projects. In the new curriculum, all students will complete two different types of final projects—a research project and a practical project.

• Develop syllabuses for each course. Each syllabus will include learning outcomes policies, readings, schedule of class activities, teaching methods, and assessment tools.

• Review and possibly revise program-level learning outcomes given the new courses and syllabuses.

• Define career opportunities for graduates from the MA-Journalism program.

• Define future academic opportunities for graduates from the MA-Journalism program.

• Define admission requirements.

• Define scholarship requirements.

• Describe teaching methods used in the MA-Journalism program.

• Describe resources available for implementing the MA-Journalism program. This report includes human resources, library and journal resources, equipment and software, and so on.

And then we’ll rest.

Can I get a journalism job? Do I want one?

After Tiko Tsomaia’s Diversity Reporting class, I went to lunch with four students and we talked about a variety of topics. Of particular interest was the lament that after graduating, students may not want to work for journalism organizations in Georgia and Azerbaijan (and by implication, Armenia). Here’s their line of reasoning: CSJMM students receive a quality education in journalism, often by people working for Western news organizations such as Reuters, so CSJMM students would like to apply what they have learned in a free and ethical news media organization. But they can’t because the news media in Georgia are not independent of government and they are not following a professional code of ethics. If students practice what they’d been taught, they’ll be fired. So why are they paying for an education at CSJMM and spending two years of their lives learning the way that journalism should be practiced?

One student had a suggestion—CSJMM should expand its radio operations and add a television station (maybe even create a newspaper), which would create jobs for professional, independent, ethical journalists (such as these four CSJMM students).

Great idea, I think. In fact, IREX’s G-Media program (http://irex.ge/programs/media/gmedia) includes a project to improve the school’s radio station. “Improvement” includes involving more students and it might include making the station a hybrid commercial-educational radio station. As far as I know, there are no plans yet to begin a television station, but a hybrid commercial-educational station might be an excellent idea.

Another lament was that the southern Caucasus countries have no higher educational programs that provide in-depth professional instruction about shooting and editing video. One student claimed that the demand for such a program is high, but the problem is lack of funding from both government and non-government sources. If people in Georgia, Azerbaijan, or Armenia have enough money, they can study in Europe or the United States. If they come from families with “normal” incomes/wealth, then there are NO options. Wouldn’t it be great, she asked, if a team of videographers from the three countries could work together to produce documentary films?

Indeed, that’s a great idea!

CSJMM is a possible solution, if it gets more video equipment, more experienced instructors who can teach video, and more money to support these budding documentary filmmakers as they get their education and make their first films.

That’s a lot of “ifs.” On the other hand, whomever tries to start something new and worthwhile will encounter a similar list of obstacles. We need to be idealistic enough and determined enough to persevere during the startup period.