Last week a discussion of somewhat unusual format took place in The Day’s editor’s office. The Day invited not experts, but young people – students of the Institute of Journalism at Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University and alumni of The Day’s Summer School of Journalism to discuss quality of Ukrainian journalism. Students from Journalism Institute made, so to speak, a counter visit to the newspaper’s editor’s office because last month the editor-in-chief Larysa Ivshyna delivered a lecture on the importance of historical component in journalism education in the Institute. Then the meeting was initiated by Olha Hresko, Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor of the International Journalism Department. Hresko believes that The Day and all its projects can be a platform for self-education not only for students in Ukraine, but even for teachers. “We see that your editorial staff is in a constant ‘live’ motion, searching,” said Hresko. This time Hresko together with her students visited The Day’s editor’s office.
However, there was another formal reason for the meeting. Sixteen years ago on January 13 Larysa Ivshyna became the chief editor of The Day. It already became a tradition that every anniversary in the newspaper is always an occasion for a serious discussion. “I am glad that students majoring in journalism feel the need to have an open discussion about the media industry. Anniversary of the time that I work as an editor is a good reason for such discussion,” said Ivshyna starting the meeting. “In our New Year’s issue we published a brief report of our work in the past year – tree of projects, description of what was accomplished by The Day only in 2012. Sixteen years of our existence have been very intense, thus, we can safely say at what aspects we were ahead, how many new projects and ideas we have launched, and what still needs to be done. What and to what extent was supported by a part of Ukrainian people and our journalism sector as its component. We also know what projects have not yet received a feedback from the society and from the journalism sector and what are the reasons for that. The most important thing, in my opinion, is that The Day has always tried to set the bar high and worked hard to reach out to it. We daily strive for journalism, the spectrum of which, as Oxana Pachlowska described, would be ‘from the European Parliament to Ukrainian countryside.’”
The discussion turned out rather comprehensive. Young people shared their thoughts on the situation in the Ukrainian media, their willingness for self-education, the lack of an active position in journalism and their vision of the Ukrainian society. They also suggested their own ideas on how to attract readers to Ukraine’s history and generally make society more conscious and consolidated. One could agree or disagree with some thoughts expressed during the meeting but they sure deserve to be heard. In general, young people surprised the newspaper staff with their willingness to discuss some deep conceptual subjects. We can say that during this meeting The Day has mastered a new format of meeting with young audience: this time the chief editor acted more like a moderator and not a lecturer, also asking students some questions. You can read the most interesting fragments of the discussion.
Viktoria SKUBA, The Day’s PR and Media Section Editor:
“Last week we published the results of the research made by Nieman Journalism Lab regarding trends that will prevail in journalism in 2013. Interestingly, these trends do not fully correspond to the understanding of the standards of Western journalism that was acquired in our country. For example, experts that participated in the study – journalists and editors of top rating Western media, said that this year the key role in journalism will have the quality of content. In their opinion, newspapers that want to keep their audience should find new ways of conveying information and become leaders in their communities. The so-called ‘journalism of finding solutions’ will take the forefront in 2013. This type of journalism presupposes that the publication together with their readers would seek for answers to the challenges that their community would face. These trends require changes both from current Ukrainian journalists and from those, who want to join the profession, while many supposedly progressive media workers in Ukraine are afraid of the phrase ‘civic position.’ That’s why I have a question to the young people present here today: are you ready for self-education, active work, and taking responsibility for your position, since the journalism of the future requires the ability to improve yourself and define priorities on your own?”
Nelia VAVERCHAK, student of the Journalism Institute at Kyiv National University:
“I very clearly remember what my teacher once said: ‘Whether you want it or not but you are the elite!’ For me, being a part of elite means to be responsible for the cultivation of national dignity. Why, for example, the Poles managed to make such a rapid breakthrough? This happened due to continuous study of their own history and formation of conscious civic position. Even a little Polish child says: ja jestem Polak (I am a Pole). This defines their actions in Europe and worldwide, as well as the vector of the development of the country. It is very sad that sanitary function of journalism on TV, which is the most influential mass media, gradually vanishes. The things covered by present media, resemble chewing gum. The society that has such media space simply cannot reach a new level. It is easy to control such a society.”
Kateryna YAKOVLENKO, The Day, Donetsk, graduate of Den’s Summer School of Journalism:
“Why The Day’s initiatives do not find much support in the regions? There are several factors for that. Firstly, it’s education. People often do not respond to your messages not because they have a stereotypical vision, but because they lack knowledge, including knowledge of historical facts. Every five years we get new history textbooks, but there are teachers and university professors who still teach this subject from old positions. Another aspect, if we talk about the reasons why some newspaper is not popular in a region, is the fact that people do not trust journalists. Who is this person that I read his articles? Why should I trust him? Is his civic position well reasoned? Unfortunately, people in regions do not know journalists from Kyiv, both good and bad ones.
“In America there are many popular talk shows. We could also have something like this. In Donetsk region a good talk radio would have its audience. Even Svoboda Radio is broadcast only on the Internet and people cannot listen to in on their phones, when they commute. However, society needs good quality journalism. A striking example of this is the situation with TVi channel, when many people came out on the streets to support the channel.”
“Recently there was a hot discussion on Facebook. One user shared his thoughts about what happens to our TV industry. He received a lot of feedback and comments. Usually I do not take part in such discussions, but here I decided to write and ask the audience that if there is no truly Ukrainian television, why don’t they support (by subscribing or placing advertising) Ukrainian press? I was absolutely convinced that this message will be left without attention for one simple reason: everybody wants to talk about something that is wrong, because it is more exciting. Besides, it is much easier with television: you simply have to press a button and something will appear on your screen. The relationship with newspaper is somewhat different: you have to subscribe it first and then it will report to you with its quality materials. Another question is how to teach our society to respond to quality, to be a responsible and reliable partner? The habit of receiving ‘freebies,’ that reaches back to the Soviet times must be separated. This will be the beginning of solidarity.”
Vadym LUBCHAK, The Day’s PR and Media journalist:
“We have an interesting and unconstrained discussion here. I would also like to talk about why the Ukrainian society is not ready to join the intellectual environment openly. Let’s be honest, Ukrainian people are accustomed to laziness. I come from Kherson region. This year The Day launched in Kherson. It would seem that it should be easy to buy a newspaper when it comes out in print daily. I asked people I know whether they read The Day. They say that they do, since it is a cool intellectual daily press. Then I asked them about where they read it. To which they replied that they read it on the Internet and that they do it because they don’t want to buy it and pay for something they can easily get for free.
“The Day has raised an interesting question: We all are patriots here and fight for Ukraine’s freedom, but are we willing to pay for it? That is, if we are willing to pay for a product that we consume, the product will be of high quality.
“I would like to make a little remark about the fact that regional journalists lack education. Nobody stops you from self-education. From my own experience I can say that after I have read half of the books from The Day’s Library series, I began to look at different history materials and the tasks for journalists in a new way. There are plenty resources for self-education. However, laziness takes over. A striking example is when students do not study during the semester and the night before the exam they open a window and shout three times: ‘Freebie come!’ hoping that they will pick the card, one out of hundred, that they can know a little about. This tradition came into being not by chance. Such attitude towards the process of learning has been formed by the archaic methods of teaching, when a professor is only interested in whether a student knows his lecture by heart and not in how he reasons. This is also convenient for teachers because then they also do not need to improve. Regarding this I have a question to Olha Hresko. How can we change the system? Can university professors explain to students today that they should make effort and educate themselves?”
Olha HRESKO, Ph.D. in Philology, Associate Professor at the Department of International Journalism, KyivNational University:
“I am certain that every student in this audience and where I have the pleasure of working engages in self-education – not only because they lack certain knowledge, but also because we live in the information age. If you have not mastered new technology, journalism is out of the question. Therefore, self-education is a habit. It cannot be that today I am a student and tomorrow a journalist who knows everything. Self-education is a process that goes hand in hand with maturation and spiritual growth. Continuous self-education is something not only students, but also teachers need – even though they have excellent knowledge of the subject, they do not always keep abreast of technological progress.”
L.I.: “Journalist education in Ukraine is a very complicated and painful issue. There is an absolute abyss between what we try to teach in The Day and what happens in departments of journalism. The difference is, above all, in terms of worldviews. I don’t even know now whom to appeal to – teachers, National Union of Journalists or students? It is unacceptable that 80 percent of fourth-year students at the Institute of Journalism do not know who Petro Hryhorenko was. Meanwhile, he was one of those who laid the foundations of a new Ukraine! So I perceive marks of a spiritual catastrophe: there is no continuity between generations, and hence there are no chances to have a kind of Polish solidarity in Ukraine.”
O.H.: “The reform in journalist education is indeed necessary, but it must be natural rather than formal if we want the situation to change for the better. I would like to give an example of a possible solution: editorial offices invest money in education institutions which train journalists. This will permit upgrading the education system and train truly professional specialists for these same mass media outlets. This model has been working in France: an editorial office invests into a future employee at the stage when he is still studying and hence sets certain requirements to him.”
Karyna KOREIBA, student at the Journalism Institute, Kyiv National University:
“Since we are talking about students, I would like to join the discussion on their behalf. Let me begin with the issue of self-education, which is extremely important. Self-education is great and the right thing to do, but I need a guide who would tell me as I stand in front of huge bookshelf: first read Lina Kostenko’s poems and then her prose or skip the prose altogether. It is the task of our university teachers to be guides like that. Meanwhile, I think that some teachers at the Institute of Journalism meet this requirement, while some don’t. In the course of our discussion, I thought about the expression ‘the agenda for the day’ in connection with The Day newspaper. The Day promotes a fashion for intellect – it is shameful for a person in The Day to admit that he or she has not read something.
“I recently asked myself a question as I was attending a Spanish-Ukrainian conference. The biggest problem the Ukrainian mass media emphasized was that there is a lack of journalism as such in our country, and we have problems with freedom of expression. At the same time, our Spanish colleagues told about a different kind of problem they faced: half of Spanish citizens have smartphones today, so the journalists need to adapt the content they produce to smartphones. It should not be too big, should load quickly and look nicely on a small screen. I was sitting in the conference and saw two different worlds of journalism. Dialog failed to take place, of course. Now, as I go into Ukrainian journalism, I ask myself: What will I be fighting for, high-quality Ukrainian journalism or smartphone-friendly content? Honestly, I will produce content that will look nice on a smartphone screen in order to be doing something worthy.”
L.I.: “If we talk about how comparable problems in Ukraine and Europe are, things look almost like you have described them. We still do not have the state envisioned by Ukrainians who fought for it for millennia. Ukrainian society is in state of great transformation, so we need journalism in the same class of that of Polish solidarity. We see that our colleagues in the Russian mass media ‘heated up the space’ – there is live society in Russia which is fighting and manifesting energy under the influence of journalism. At the same time, I do not think as they raise issues of worldview, Russian journalists fail, for example, to pay due attention to quality. Therefore, our task is precisely to create worldview journalism and, at the same, take care to make it attractive.”