Workshop participants working on a group exercise.

Cox Center Team Discusses Ethiopian Curriculum, Previews Web Product, Teaches Short Course

The revised curriculum of Unity University College's School of Journalism and Communication took center stage in a series of meetings and discussions between faculty at the Ethiopian university and faculty from the University of Georgia's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication in Ethiopia in January.

Grady College faculty and a representative of the Information Technology Project at Unity also reviewed a prototype for a web presence for the Unity's journalism program developed by the Grady faculty and offered a short course through Unity's Executive Short Term Training Department.

The Ethiopian university developed the new journalism curriculum in the autumn of 2002 after University College became Unity University College. At that time, Unity decided to upgrade its two-year diploma program in journalism to a four-year program leading to a bachelor's degree.

The Grady College is collaborating with Unity as part of a grant from the Association Liaison Office for University Cooperation in Development (ALO) funded by USAID. The grant is being administered by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College.

As part of the grant, Grady faculty are assisting in curriculum development for the Unity program, the first independent journalism program in the country. The January visit was the third by Grady faculty to Ethiopia as part of the project. A faculty member from Unity visited the United States and the Grady College in August of 2002 as part of the program.

The Cox Center offered a program for Unity faculty on student instructional techniques and curriculum development in February of 2000, just as the Unity journalism program was getting underway and before the Cox Center received the grant from ALO.

Unity was founded as a language school in 1992 and became the first private, fully-accredited four-year college in the country in 1998. Its main campuses are in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

Both Dr. Elizabeth Lester Roushanzamir and Dr. Lee B. Becker told the Unity faculty and administrators that the curriculum matched well with the new goals for the School of Journalism and Communication, as outlined in the degree program objectives the faculty and administration developed. "I'm very impressed with the curriculum," Dr. Becker told the faculty, mirroring statements made by Dr. Roushanzamir.

Dr. Roushanzamir is a member of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations in the Grady College, while Dr. Becker is a faculty member in the Department of Journalism. The Unity journalism program includes courses in print and broadcast journalism and in public relations.

The Grady College faculty were joined in the discussions by Professor Tegest Heruy, dean of the Unity School of Journalism and Communication, faculty member Seyoum Alemu, and Isobel Thomas from the UK Voluntary Service Overseas organization, who taught in the program in 2002.

Dr. Roushanzamir presented the prototype web product for the journalism program to Yikirta Alemu, director of IT projects at Unity. The prototype, developed by Dr. Roushanzamir and Cox Center graduate research assistant Nancy Mace, will allow faculty to upload students products from each of the classes and will provide basic information about the program for prospective students and others interested in developments in the journalism program at Unity.

Alemu also previewed for Dr. Roushanzamir the new web site for Unity, which will be launched soon. The two discussed how to integrate the two prototypes.

The short course, which was attended by 10 working journalists and a public relations practitioner, was titled "The Challenges of News Selection and Writing," focused on definitions of news from the perspectives of the government, of sources, of journalists, and of audience members. It also covered writing for the various media and legal and ethical issues in news selection.

The journalists attending the three-day short course came from Ethiopian News Agency, the state-owned news organization, from, a web service of Unity College, and from the campus newspaper of Unity.The public relations practitioner also works for Unity.

Dr. Becker told the group it was helpful to try to differentiate the definition of news of the government, sources, editors, reporters, working journalists generally, audience members and of advertisers. While there sometimes is overlap, he said, there also can be important differences of perspectives.

In a commercial system such as that in the United States, Dr. Becker said, editors and journalists spend a lot of time listening to their audiences, trying to cover news of interest to them.

Dr. Becker outlined a number of different strategies being used by media organizations in the United States to create different ways of gathering news, including the creation of new "beats" or speciality assignments focusing on family, religion, and various components of community life.

One of the short course participants said news itself is often negative in Ethiopia and asked if this also was a problem in the United States. Drs. Becker and Roushanzamir said this was a common criticism of the news in the U.S. as well and that many journalists had tried to find stories featuring the accomplishments of individuals and organizations within the community to counterbalance this.

"This is not to argue that journalists should avoid bad news," Dr. Becker said, "but rather journalists should balance the bad news with sufficient good news to give a more accurate, as well as constructive, view of life in the communities they serve."

The short course included a discussion of laws making it possible for private citizens-and journalists-to gain information about the activities of government in the United States. The Ethiopian journalists lamented the lack of such legislation in their country.

During the visit by the Grady faculty to Ethiopia, the government proposed even more restrictive laws for journalists, a move opposed in the country's independent newspapers.

The Cox Center team also was told that the Minister of Education in Ethiopia has withheld accreditation for the journalism program at Unity while developing plans to build a journalism program at Addis Ababa University, which is a state controlled institution.

The ALO project will end in August of 2003, and the Cox Center team and the administration at Unity discussed the best way to make use of the remaining time and other resources to help strengthen the journalism program.

Dr. Melinda Robins of Emerson College, who has visited Unity twice in 2002 as part of the Cox Center project, will spend several weeks at Unity in the summer of 2003 to assist with instruction and curriculum development.

At least one of the Unity faculty members will travel to the U.S. in August to visit journalism programs and media organizations.

While in Addis, Drs. Becker and Roushanzamir summarized the work of the project with Cheryl Kim, director of the Office of Human and Institution Development in the Office of Democracy and Governance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission to Ethiopia. USAID is funding the Grady College-Unity project through ALO.

The Cox Center team also delivered to Unity a second installment of books for the journalism program. The 16 books delivered in January focused on news writing and editing and on public relations. In January of 2002, the team delivered 10 books on newsroom management.