They risk their lives for us

The U.S. Ambassador to Georgia, John Bass, recently criticized Georgian journalists.

He said they don’t ask difficult questions, aren’t skeptical towards answers they receive, avoid certain topics, and aren’t asking follow-up questions after receiving vague answers.

That’s bad.

Bass thinks this low level of journalism is partly due to a lack of professionalism and partly due to a biased editorial policy at certain broadcasting organizations.

I agree with both reasons, but I place more blame on government-controlled broadcasters.

No big news. The problem exists throughout the world and the results are similar—journalists support the ruling party rather than battling on behalf of the general population. And I’m not sure how I’d react if I were a journalist in Georgia who was not lucky enough to work at an independent news organization. I like to think that I challenge authority when necessary, but . . . it’s difficult to walk in another’s shoes.

I realize that the photojournalists in East Timor depicted in this 6-minute video are censoring themselves, but they deserve respect. Jose Belo and his peers are challenging authority. They are not only risking their jobs, but also their lives.

That’s good (which means I’m proud of them).



The “ties” that bind us together

Copyright Baadur Koplatadze, 2011

People who know me know that I like unusual ties. As a visual communications professor, I think it is appropriate that my trademark is visually interesting ties. When I gave some presentations in Tbilisi in April 2011, I wore a couple of my favorite ties. Then I was invited to a press conference at the American Embassy to announce the Journalism School Partnership Program between USC’s SJMC and GIPA’s CSJMM. I can’t remember if I wore a tie, but I remember that GIPA’s rector (like a president) did not wear a tie. Moreover, I clearly remember that Giorgi Margvelashvili said that Georgians don’t wear ties. OK, I thought, but I was not convinced.

Later the same week, Maia Mikashavidze took me to a piano recital in a beautiful concert hall. I studied the way the men were dressed and, indeed, found that none, or almost none of the men wore ties. Giorgi’s statement was confirmed. When I returned to Tbilisi September 1, I didn’t bring any of my ties.

Last night the American ambassador, John Bass, hosted a cocktail party to announce the arrival of the embassy’s new Public Affairs Officer. The invitation said “business attire,” and I work black slacks and a white long-sleeved shirt. As you have undoubtedly predicted, every man—at least 100—was wearing a tie except me. No problem; it is not the first time I’ve been under-dressed and feeling a bit foolish.

Then . . . I saw the rector, Giorgi, at the ambassador’s home, and guess what? He was wearing a tie. So we joked around for a while and had a good laugh.

Giorgi asked me how I’ve been enjoying my stay in Georgia. I said I’m having a great time—I love the people, the food, the scenery, my apartment, and so on. I just don’t have a tie, I joked. Giorgi immediately removed his tie and gave it to me. He was insistent. I agreed to take his tie on the condition that we “share” it. So, we shared the tie, and now this incident has become one of the stories that “tie” us together.