From left to right: Irina Arabidze, Tea Zibizbadze, Khatuna Barbakadze, Maia Ivelashvili, Kevevan Berdzenishvili and Khatuna Gogashvili.

Journalists from Country of Georgia Discuss the U.S. Mass Media Landscape

Mark Johnson, a professor in the Department of Journalism of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia, told the five Georgian journalists who visited the college on April 4 that he and his colleagues want their students to be ready for their first jobs.

"I think we should focus more on our students' abilities to become good editors," Johnson said. "Many people, professional reporters, so-called citizen journalists, community journalists do a lot of reporting. Tons of information are available, but someone has to know how to verify those sources, how to organize the material, and how to tell the story for different platforms."

The journalists were participating in a one-day program organized by the James M. Cox, Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College.

The program included discussions of journalism awards programs, of the U.S. local and regional broadcast market, of journalism and mass communication education and of opportunities for professional and educational collaboration.

The Georgian journalists were: Ms. Khatuna Barbakadze, general director, Kvemo Kartli Teleradiocompany, Ms. Ketevan Berdzenishvili, program director, Radio Company Dzveli Kalaki, Ms. Khatuna Gogashvili, Reporter, Hereti Broadcasting Company, Ms. Maia Ivelashvili, general director, TV-Radio Company Imperia Ltd., and Ms. Tea Zibzibadze, managing editor, Newspaper Akhali Gazeti.

They were accompanied by Ms. Irina Arabidze, from MediaMonitor, a part of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia.

The Georgians were visiting the Grady College as part of an exchange under the auspices of the Open World Program, coordinated by the U.S. Congress, in collaboration with Friendship Force International, the law firm of Hall, Booth, Smith & Slover, and Atlanta Tbilisi Sister Committee.

Professor Nathaniel Kohn, associate director of the Peabody Awards Program, told the visitors that the main criterion in judging the materials submitted for the competition is excellence.

"The materials are submitted based on categories, but the awards are not given on categories," Dr. Kohn said.

Dr. Kohn told the group he hoped for more international submissions in the future.

Professor Michael Castangera of the Department of Telecommunications gave the guests a tour of the college's TV facilities and explained how the U.S. broadcast market is structured.

"Most of our graduates start their careers working for small and medium size broadcast organizations," Castangera told the visitors. "While they are in college, we try to get them prepared for all the range of TV jobs, from reporters to producers to editors."

Professor Mark Johnson in session with Georgian journalists.

Drs. Lee Becker and Tudor Vlad, director and associate director of the Cox Center, discussed journalism education in the United States, indicating that most entry-level hiring at daily newspapers and television stations is of graduates of journalism and mass communication programs similar to the one offered by the Grady College.

Early in the day the journalists had a chance to meet with students of the Grady College, who were assigned to interview them and write a story about the interview.

"Georgia just started its first steps toward democratic goals," one of the journalists told the students. "Accordingly the meaning of freedom and liberty in journalism is a little different there."

She said that, in her observation, journalists in the regional media enjoyed more liberty than do journalists in the capital of Tbilisi.

"They are small, and I would imagine the central government does not take much interest in them," she said.

At that session with the students, Arabidze, who was group facilitator for the program, said "It is very interesting for the delegates to see how the journalism school works here in America."

"This is part of our broad agenda of visiting and meeting different professionals who work in the same field as the delegates do in Georgia," she explained.

"We hope that your visit is only the beginning of future collaboration," Dr. Vlad told the Georgian guests at the end of the day. "The Cox Center sees all its international programs as true exchanges, where all the participants get involved into the dialog and contribute to the discussion. Many of our partnerships have started with visits like this one."