Dr. Charles Davis, Dean of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication; Dr. Tudor Vlad, Director of the Cox Center; Chuang Wang, visiting research scholar, and the group of visiting Ethiopian journalists.

Ethiopian Journalists Learn About U.S. Media At Grady College

“The business model of local journalism is under threat,” Dr. Charles Davis, dean of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, told a group of seven Ethiopian journalists. “From 1990 to 2016, the number of newspaper employees in the United States dropped from about 450,000 to 180,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As an example, The San Jose Mercury News in the mid-1990s had 400 journalists on staff. Today? 41.”

The group was in the state of Georgia in mid-July through the U.S. Department of State international visitor program Media Leadership & Management, and their sessions in Athens were organized by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia. The Cox International Center is an outreach unit of the Grady College.

The goal of the program was to help the visitors explore the role of independent media and U.S. laws on freedom of expression, observe interplay among public and private media agencies, examine contemporary media leadership skills and business models, and discuss best practices in developing a media strategic plan.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, said that the Center had conducted research in many emerging democracies and some of the findings have been surprising. “Economic theories document that competition is beneficial to the society: it creates better and cheaper products, it brings new jobs, it stimulates creativity. What we have found in many media systems in post-totalitarian and transitional countries doesn’t support that theory. There is evidence that low competition and very high competition usually contribute to declines in quality of media and in the level of professionalization among journalists.”

Ethiopian journalists meeting with Dr. Tudor Vlad, Director of the Cox Center..

The guests had questions about the programs of the Cox International Center and about opportunities for collaboration. Dr. Vlad addressed some of those issues, saying that the Center always works with local mass communication outlets or schools of journalists to identify the challenges the media are facing. Once those needs are agreed upon, the Center and its local partners create educational and training programs to address them.

The visitors had a session in the Journalism Innovation Lab, led by Dr. Keith Herndon, director of the Cox Institute for Journalism Innovation, Management and Leadership. The presentation focused on new business models in the U.S. media industry. “Digital media added 80,000 new jobs at increasingly higher wages, while legacy media shed nearly 74,000 jobs with wages for those remaining barely keeping pace with inflation,” Dr. Herndon told the Ethiopians. “Over the coming decade, the business models supporting the U.S. news media will dramatically shift away from advertising to subscriptions and ancillary revenue.”

The seven guests were: Mr. Mohammed Abdulaziz Anur, General Manager, Benishangul Gumuz Regional State Mass Media Agency; Mr. Kassahun Kasim Dawu, Executive Officer, Entertainment Channel, EBC; Mr. Bruk Habte Gebre, General Manager, South Radio and Television Agency, SNNPR; Ms. Hoden Mehad Mehamud, Deputy Manager, Somali Region Mass Media Agency; Ms. Entalem Melese Mideksa, General Manager, Addis Ababa City Government Mass Media Agency; Mr. Dereje Moges Tadesse, Vice Manager, Amhara Mass Media Agency; and Mr. Bekele Muleta Tolla, Director-General, Ethiopian News Agency.

Prior to their sessions at the University of Georgia, the group visited media organizations in Washington D.C. and Atlanta. Their program in Georgia was coordinated by the Georgia Council for International Visitors.