Journalism, Media studies

Course date

5 July - 30 July, 1999
Application deadline
15 February, 1999
Course Director(s): 

David Klatell

Graduate School of Journalism, Columbia University in the City of New York, United States of America
Course Faculty: 

Ed Baumeister

The Independent Journalism Foundation, Budapest, Hungary

Peter Herford

Columbia University in the City of New York, United States of America

Stjepan Malovic

University of Zagreb, Croatia

Tatiana Repkova

Trend- Slovak Business Weekly, Bratislava, Slovakia

Katarina Vajdova

Center for Independent Journalism, Bratislava, Slovakia

The change of system in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989-1991 found the press in the region in a state of nearly complete unpreparedness. The official press had of course been grounded in an ideology antithetical to social, political and economic principles adopted after the changes. The official press had been (and in some cases still is) handmaiden to the government (and party) of their countries, not servant to the people. The samizdat press had functioned essentially as political opposition, and was likewise unready to step into the broader function required of the media in a civil society – that of honest broker of information among the various elements of those societies.

Nonetheless, the press in Central and Eastern Europe has changed in the decade. To some extent, this has been the function of foreign ownership. Beyond that, some informal training of journalists, in Europe and North America, has brought some new ideas to the region. But during this time, there has been very little formal training of journalists to meet their new responsibilities. Journalism schools at state universities have been slow to change, and their graduates often have a hard time finding jobs in journalism. Moreover, the schools do not minister to practicing journalists. New private journalism schools are few. Importing “Western” methods of journalism has been problematic because for social and historical reasons.

Using a method of highly practical teaching developed over decades at the Graduate School of Journalism of Columbia University, this course is precisely crafted to deal with the social and cultural relevance issues, and to provide the kind of practical instruction that will be immediately useful to those who enroll in it. Designed for practicing journalists in Central and Eastern Europe, the course defines what it is teaching as advanced modern journalism. That phrase has two meanings. In the first definition, it means instruction in the new methods of journalism practice that technology has made possible. In the second definition, it means modern in essentially post-Communist terms. This is intended to be entirely nonideological by simply assigning previous journalism practice in the region to a pre-modern era.

The course has been developed with an awareness that journalism is practiced differently in Europe from the way it is practiced in North America, or in the Anglo-Saxon tradition. The instructors all have direct experience of that. While forms of exposition may differ, the basic principles of all journalism are the same: It must be honest, factual, reliable, ethical – in a word professional.

The course is designed to expose working journalists to methods which are at the same time modern and professional. Agreed professional standards have been slow to develop in this region. One intent of the course is to train journalists who will uphold professional standards when they return to their own countries.