Romanita Bergia of the Independent Journalism Center,
Moldova, focused on program goals.

Evaluation Should be Incorporated in Programs, Representatives of Media Centers Say

Representatives of media training organizations in south-eastern Europe, meeting in Chisinau, Moldova, May 15-17, pledged to incorporate into their training courses more systematic impact assessment and to share information and experience with others involved in media training.

The group, assembled by the South-East European Network for the Professionalization of the Media (SEENPM), also called on donors and supporters of journalism training to help facilitate and underwrite impact assessment.

These actions were agreed upon by the 13 media center leaders after three days of discussion of the state of knowledge about the impact of media training in their countries. They were joined by outside experts on assessment from Denmark, South Africa and the United States.

Corina Cepoi, project director of the Center for Independent Journalism in Chisinau, opened the workshop by noting that she had done an extensive search for studies of the impact of media training and found few examples.

One study she did locate was conducted by Dr. Guy Berger, head of the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rhodes University in South Africa. His study assessed training programs conducted in his country. Another was by Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia in the United States.

Drs. Berger and Becker attended the workshop and discussed their research procedures and findings. They were joined by Paul Eric Nielsen of the Department of Information and Media Studies at the University of Aaarhus in Denmark. Dr. Nielsen, an expert on media training and assessment, helped organize the Moldovan meeting.

"Training is a journey," Dr. Berger said. "Learn from what you do." Assessment is a central part of that learning, he added.

Dr. Becker recommended that assessment take place on four levels: on the individual, on media organizations, on the practice of media in a society, and on the larger society itself. He also stressed that all assessments include comparisons, such as between those trained and those not trained.

Even with proper designs, however, Dr. Becker said "Findings are more likely to be suggestive than definitive. Best guesses based on systematic observation and analysis, however, are better than simple best guesses."

Dr. Berger also cautioned the group: "It is difficult to single out the impact of training because the media are in a state of flux."

Romanita Bergia, an evaluation consultant to the Moldovan Independent Journalism Center, advised the group to begin developing indicators of impact by looking first at the goals of the programs. From those goals it is possible to identify more concrete measures.

Attending the meeting were representatives of media training organizations in Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Hungary, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, as well as Moldova. Most of those present are leaders of centers that are members of SEENPM, which was created in 2000 and links media centers and institutions in 12 countries in the region.

In 1999 the Cox Center undertook an evaluation of the Knight International Press Fellowship Program, operated by the International Center for Journalists in Washington, D.C., and funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, based in Miami, Florida. That evaluation showed considerable evidence of the impact of the Knight Program on those served by it.

The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

Following the workshop, Dr. Becker remained in Chisinau to work with the Center for Independent Journalism.

He visited the Journalism Department at the Free Independent Moldovan University where he held a question and answer session with 18 students on journalism education in the United States. He also visited Moldova State University where he met with faculty of the School of Journalism and Communication Science and a representative of the Institute for Public Policy.

In addition, during his stay with the Moldovan journalism center Dr. Becker met with managers of independent local newspapers and television stations to discuss their strategies for operating in the Moldovan media environment.

Dr. Becker's trip to Moldova was supported by a travel grant from the Office of International Information Programs of the U.S. Department of State.