Dr. Vlad talked about media and conflict resolution.

Journalism Educators and Journalists Discuss Media Diversity in Belgrade Workshop

Serbian and U.S. journalism educators, journalists and nongovernmental officials discussed past and present experiences of their countries with various types of diversity during a three-day workshop held at the University of Belgrade’s College of Political Science from May 15-17.

Diversity has meant and continues to mean different things in the two countries, comments from the various presenters at the workshop indicated.

Both countries are struggling at present to create media content that presents accurate pictures of society and to create journalistic workforces that make creation of such content likely and possible, the presenters indicated.

The workshop was organized by the College of Political Science at the University of Belgrade, the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, and the Department of Media Arts at Clark Atlanta University.

Approximately 60 educators, students, journalists and representatives of nongovernmental organizations interested in the media attended the meetings. During the first day of the discussions, 10 students and faculty from the journalism program at the University of Kyiv in Ukraine also participated.

The workshop was the third held in Belgrade by the Serbian and U.S. universities as part of a three-year exchange program supported by a grant to the University of Georgia from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The project concludes at the end of 2007.

The grant is administered by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia.

Dr. E. Culpepper Clark, dean of the Grady College at the University of Georgia, stressed at the outset of the discussions that diversity in the U.S. has centered historically around race relations, and most often around the different experiences of Americans who came to the U.S. from Africa in slavery and others who came voluntarily to better the opportunities for themselves and their families.

Even after the United States outlawed slavery, Dr. Clark said, it attempted to keep African-Americans and others separate.

“You cannot separate people and have anything that amounts to equality,” Dr. Clark said America has learned. “Separation is inherently a denial of quality.”

Europeans have been concerned with a variety of types of diversity, Dr. Branimir Stojkovic, head of the Department of Journalism at the University of Belgrade, told the workshop participants. The Department of Journalism is a part of the College of Political Science.

Included in the discussion of European diversity have been cultural diversity, such as the preservation of language, arts, and crafts, and political diversity. He said Europeans differentiate these from what he called “corporate diversity,” which focuses on the diversity of “pizza or hamburger restaurants.”

“The level of cultural diversity is being reduced throughout the world,” Dr. Stojkovic said. He urged the group to try to find ways to sustain cultural diversity.

“Media diversity pertains to diversity in content,” Dr. Snjezana Milivojevic from the University of Belgrade said. A diversity of ownership of media outlets “does not necessarily result in diversity” of content, she warned.

Presenters during the workshop examined how Roma people are covered in the Serbian media, differences in the experiences of male and female journalists in both countries, how students should be taught to challenge the stereotypes they hold, and how the characteristics of journalists influence the ways they cover stories.

Prof. James McJunkins represented Clark Atlanta University at the workshop and said his university, which has mostly African-American students, provides an environment that gives those students an opportunity to gain in self-confidence.

Prof. Carolina Acosta-Alzuru from the Grady College at the University of Georgia, reminded the group that “as you are describing a reality you are always interpreting it.” She said stereotypes influence those interpretations. “We need to be aware of stereotypes. We need to be aware we are stereotyping.”

“I want students to know that just because something is different doesn’t mean that it is worse,” she said.

“Is there diversity in the new media technologies?” Prof. Miroljub Radojkovic from the University of Belgrade asked. “Of course there is. You can be rejected. You can talk to yourself. But the question is: What kind of audience do you have?”

Andrea Stone, a national correspondent for USAToday, the largest newspaper in the United States, said she was asked by her paper to cover the U.S. Depart of Defense because she is a woman.

“Just by having women there helps you break out of the stereotypes. I will see things a little differently,” she said. “Which is why we need diversity” in the newsroom.

Natasa Simeunovic, a graduate student at the University of Belgrade, summarized for the group the findings of research she did showing the stereotypes used by one prominent newspaper in Serbia when it writes about the Roma minority.

“Roma are beggars. They are presented like that,” she said. “In the texts you can find that Roma are dirty. Roma are criminals. They are thieves. They kill each other.”

The three-year collaboration between the three universities has included visits by Serbian professors to the two American universities. In addition, American professors have taught classes at the University of Belgrade.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, assistant director of the Cox Center, was part of the workshop team and summarized research the Center has done to examine how diversity in media coverage of conflict can help improve that cover.

Dr. Vlad remained in Belgrade for a week after the workshop to meet with faculty and students. During this time, he gave a lecture to a Master's class on “Living in the future: Challenges of communication in the new media era."

“The new technologies have brought an extraordinary variety of communication avenues, and it is hard to anticipate what will happen in the near future,” Dr. Vlad told the students. “As communication professionals, you will face unprecedented challenges, but you will also have very exciting experiences.” The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College and coordinated the collaborative project for the University of Georgia. Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the Cox Center, also was part of the U.S. team at the May workshop.

In addition to joining in the workshop, the U.S. participants visited the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia as well as the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation to meet with journalists and exchange ideas about the media in the two countries.