The International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) presented a training program for working professional journalists as well as “citizen journalists” or bloggers in Russia. Working in three cities in diverse regions of Russia – Moscow, Yekaterinburg and Vladivostok – ICFJ undertook this work in cooperation with its Russian partner, the Glasnost Defense Foundation (GDF) of Moscow.
Through their efforts, ICFJ and GDF increased the investigative reporting capacities of the participating Russian journalists and journalism trainers in all three regions. At the same time, ICFJ and its partner also developed the capabilities of Russian bloggers, helping them to work at a higher professional level and creating a corps of genuine “citizen journalists.”
The program was conducted in three four-month phases, one in each of the selected cities. The first phase took place in Moscow.
Teams of eight participants in each city were recruited, and the best-qualified candidates took part in an intensive training program in investigative reporting on issues of importance to the public. The reporters were trained in investigative and in-depth reporting techniques. Their print and broadcast stories were distributed by the media organizations they work for. They were also posted on the Web for distribution to wider audiences. The key to success was the participants’ one-on-one work with the program’s trainers in print and broadcast journalism, who directed each phase to completion.
Our goal was to expand and professionalize Russia’s citizen media. Citizen media is the sharing of news and information in a free and open online forum, usually produced by people with no journalism training. Such forums often include eyewitness photos, video, audio and text. ICFJ and its partner recruited 12 participants at each of the three sites for training. We recruited among existing citizen journalists and we will develop new ones. The program was intended to strengthen the flow of news and information from new sources in key areas of the country.
Citizen journalists or bloggers have become alternative sources of reliable information in many countries, but their level of professionalism is often low. Many people who are blogging or creating their own Web sites are not knowledgeable about professional standards of verifying information, relying on credible sources and adhering to ethical standards. Even so, some digital sites already offer more information than mainstream media. During the program, ICFJ and its partner did not emphasize citizen journalism as simply a vehicle for the opinions of the individual citizen journalist. Instead we helped the participating citizen journalists to use the Internet to create local community forums for news, eyewitness accounts, audio and video of breaking events or public meetings, and as a place for free and open discussion among citizens.
ICFJ and its partner conducted the program with a grant from the U.S. Department of State.