Dr. Milivojevic making a point during the program.

Serbian and American Journalism Educators Examine Differences and Commonalities in Approaches

Three days of discussions among faculty members teaching journalism at the University of Belgrade, Clark Atlanta University and the University of Georgia in May underscored similarities in the approaches to journalism education in Serbia and the United States as well as differences.

All three universities combine practical coursework, teaching the basic skills demanded by the media workplaces, with theoretical instruction about the role of the media in society. All three attempt to prepare the students for a competitive and changing job market. The curriculum at all three programs runs for four years and incorporates student experiences with campus media.

The University of Belgrade, alone among the three programs, is competing with other media training programs outside the university that have emerged in the last several years. It also is preparing students for an unsettled media market in which competition is very high, the advertising market is inadequate for the number of outlets, and many of the media organizations are operated by people with little formal education in the field.

The journalism professors from the three universities had gathered for the three-days of discussions at the University of Belgrade in Serbia as part of a three-year project designed to facilitate exchanges about journalism and journalism education in Serbia and the United States. The project is supported by a grant to the University of Georgia by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State.

Representing Clark Atlanta University at the sessions was James D. McJunkins, who is the journalism coordinator in the Department of Mass Media Arts at the private university located in Atlanta.

Dr. Miroljub Radojkovic and Dr. Snjezana Milivojevic represented the University of Belgrade, though 17 other faculty members and graduate students participated in the discussions across the three days. Some dropped in and out of the meetings as their schedules allowed.

Dr. Radojkovic is head of the journalism program, while Dr. Milivojevic, a faculty member in the department, is coordinator of the exchange project.

The Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia was represented by Drs. Lee B. Becker, C. Ann Hollifield, Kent Middleton and Tudor Vlad.

Drs. Becker and Middleton are in the journalism department at the university, located in Athens, about 60 miles from Atlanta. Dr. Hollifield teaches in the telecommunications department. Dr. Vlad is assistant director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College. Dr. Becker is director of the Cox Center. The project is a central activity of the Cox Center.

Others participating in the workshop were a professor from the Faculty of Drama Arts of the University of Belgrade, two professors from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Novi Sad, two professors from the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Nis, and three members of the Law School at the University of Montenegro.

Other participants represented ANEM, the Center for Professionalization of the Media, the Novi Sad School of Journalism, and the European Center for Broadcast Journalism, all of which provide professional journalism training outside the university.

An editor of a local magazine and of a radio and television station in Kragujevac also joined in the discussions.

Dr. Stephan Russ-Mohl from the University of Lugano in Switzerland, who has just published a book on journalism translated into Serbian, joined the discussions on the final day of the workshop.

“We can learn a lot from each other,” Dr. Vlad told the group. He recommended using the three days of exchange to explore ways to confront the challenges faced by journalism educators in the two countries.

Dr. Vlad, who created a journalism program at Babes-Bolyai University in neighboring Romania after the fall of communism there, said he could recognize many similarities in the situations of the two countries.

In both universities, for example, journalism was built up within larger political science programs. Both countries have experienced excessive competition in the media markets following the conversion to a market economy. In both cases, the need for “trained, professional journalists” was very great, he said.

The first day of the workshop (May 11) focused on the curricula of the three programs. The second focused on the development of journalism training programs in Serbia outside the university following the liberalization of the market. The final day focused on the relationship between the journalism education and the media industries that employ its graduates.

Prof. Neda Todorovic of the journalism program at the University of Belgrade said the curriculum in the journalism program implies “something more than simple training of students in order to facilitate their adjustment to the requirements of the current media market.” She said the incorporation of communication theory into the curriculum “helped us to point them towards higher, ethical requirements of our profession.”

“We have a special heritage and special burden,” Stevan Niksic from the Center for Professionalization of the Media said. “We have survived a special dictatorship. It was a post modern dictatorship that developed a special media.” The journalists have been “raised in violence,” he added.

The Center’s curriculum, he said, focuses on midcareer training for print journalists and places an emphasis on ethics and journalistic standards.

Slavica Trifunovic from Radio Television Kragujevac said her station struggled to find qualified journalists. “If we had a graduate of this school apply we would hire them, even without practical experience.”

The relationship between industry and the university is an important one, Prof. McJunkins from Clark Atlanta said. He said frequent contacts his university fosters with the industry helps his students find internships and jobs upon graduation.

The participants in the program visited one prominent media outlet in Belgrade, B-92. The broadcaster started as a radio outlet and played a prominent role in the turbulent political period of the 1990s in Belgrade. At present, B-92 operates provides both radio and television programs.

On the second evening of the program, Allen Docal, public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, hosted the participants in a reception at his home.

The May program was the third activity in the three-year project. Drs. Becker and Vlad had traveled to Belgrade in November of 2004 to begin planning for the project. Drs. Milivojevic and Radojkovic spent a month in early 2005 in Athens visiting with faculty and students in the Grady College at the University and also visiting Clark Atlanta University.

During that month-long visit, the team developed plans for the three-day program in May and requested that Drs. Hollifield and Middleton be part of the visiting team from the University of Georgia.

In the week following the workshop, Professors Ann Hollifield and Kent Middleton gave four lectures to undergraduate and graduate students in the journalism department. On Monday, Dr. Ann Hollifield gave a lecture to approximately 20 undergraduate students in a class on informatics. She explained how digitization and convergence are changing media management and media economics in the United States. The lecture looked at how these forces affected market structure, media production, media distribution and strategic management and journalistic credibility.

Also on Monday, Dr. Middleton led a discussion with approximately 25 graduate students on American media law, focusing particularly on protections of free speech, on hate speech, and defamation and libel law.

On Tuesday, Dr. Middleton lectured to approximately 40 senior undergraduate students on these same topics.

On Wednesday, Dr. Hollifield lectured to and led a discussion with senior undergraduate students on public opinion on how media economics impact media behavior and behavior and consequently influences public opinion. She also talked about how market competition has impact on ethical media behavior.

Both Drs. Hollifield and Middleton met with current and former editors of the student magazine on Wednesday and discussed the issues they face in their publication, and how to stabilize the publication financially. The discussion also focused on the curriculum the students follow in their program.

One outcome of the discussions was an agreement on the part of those present to explore developing a mechanism to facilitate the exchange of writing between students at the University of Belgrade and the two universities in the United States.

On Thursday, Dr. Middleton represented the Grady College in an awards ceremony to honor top student journalists and other students in the program.

On Tuesday and Thursday, Dr. Hollifield visited a broadcast media outlet and a newspaper to discuss their management procedures. The interviews will become a part of a collaborative research project involving faculty members at the University of Belgrade, the University of Georgia, and Clark Atlanta University.

The pair also met informally with students and faculty members during their week-long stay in Belgrade.