Sergey Ryazanov and Vladimir Kasutin, RUJ.

Workshop in Samara, Russia, Focuses on Change Brought about by the Economic Crisis and Technology

Media leaders should hone their skills in managing people and sharpen the focus of their products to make it through the current economic crisis, Russian and American experts said in a two-day workshop in Samara in early June.

“We should find out as much as we can about the audience,” Vladimir Kasutin, a professional trainer with the Russian Union of Journalists, told the 19 broadcast and newspaper managers in the workshop. “If we know the audience, we can make the right product,” he added.

Dr. C. Ann Hollifield from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia told the participants to follow three principles in managing change in their organizations.

The editors and senior managers should communicate with those in the organization about the proposed changes, outline the long-term outcomes being sought and get “the people most affected by the change involved in the process.”

Kasutin and Hollfield were the two primary discussion facilitators in the workshop, held at the Samara office of the Union of Journalists. They were assisted by Dr. Nadezhda Azhgikhina, exective director of the Russion Union of Journalists, and Dr. Lee B. Becker, also of the Grady College at the University of Georgia.

Dr. Ann Hollifield and session participants.

Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, the international outreach unit of the Grady College. The Cox Center is partnering with the RUJ on three workshops on media management during 2009.

The project is funded by a grant to the RUJ by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) in Washington. Both the Cox Center and RUJ also are contributing to the project.

The 19 participants included editors of newspapers, representatives of media holding companies with newspapers, magazines, radio and television operations, and the dean of a local journalism program. All came from the city of Samara or other parts of the Samara Region. Samara is on the Volga River south and east of Moscow.

Dr. Nadezhda Azhgikhina participates in discussion during workshop.

The focus of the workshop was management of media organizations in the current economic crisis facing Russia and the rest of the world.

Dr. Becker followed the general introductory comments of Dr. Azhgikhina by explaining the current problems being faced by American media in general and newspaper in particular. He asked the participants to focus on the different ways to distribute their content and the vulnerabilities of these systems.

He said the system currently by U.S. newspapers–“distribution by the streets”–is particularly inefficient and expensive to maintain. He noted that the burden of maintaining that system has become particularly difficult for American newspapers given the opportunities of the Internet.

Dr. Hollifield said media organizations must learn how to deal with the challenges of the current economic crisis as well as those presented by technological change. “The more you can tell people the changes you plan to make and why you are making those changes the better of you will be,” she said.

Kasutin said good hiring practices are crucial for media organizations in these challenging times and emphasized the importance of developing systematic procedures, following them carefully and including a standard assessment tool. The tool should include an examination off the personality of the applicant.

“If a person has the personality to be a journalist it is possible to teach him or her some skills,” he said.

The workshop took place on June 9 and 10. On June 11, Drs. Hollifield and Becker spent about an hour answering questions from just fewer than 50 students in the journalism program at the State Academy of Social Sciences and Humanities in the Volga Region.

Following the questions, the two talked about journalism education and the program of the Grady College with administrators of that program, including possible exchanges in the future.

The students asked a wide range of questions about such things as changes taking place in the U.S. media during the crisis, salaries of American journalists and the way the U.S. media covered the conflict between Russia and Georgia.

Prior to traveling to Samara, Drs. Hollifield and Becker met with administrators of the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State University in Moscow. The meeting was a sequel to one held in February 11 and focused on steps needed to develop a collaboration relationship between the Faculty of Journalism at Moscow State and the Grady College.

Representatives of Moscow State as well as of media in Russia will visit the Grady College, probably in November. The next two workshops in Russia are tentatively scheduled for late September.