IREX has been implementing G-MEDIA Program in Georgia by funding from USAID for several years. One of the Program directions is development of new media in Georgia. In framework of the Project IREX has implemented different projects in 2013. Media.ge spoke with IREX New Media Program manager Dachi Grdzelishvili about the details of what these projects related to, what are the perspectives of new media in Georgia and how journalists use new media instruments.
- Dachi, let’s start with projects implemented by IREX. What activities have you implemented?
- One of the directions of G-MEDIA program organized by IREX is New Media Initiative (NMI). In framework of NMI, for developing new media in regional journalism, based on preliminary research we selected 13 media organizations which went through permanent trainings.
Main goal was improvement of sustainability of organizations. Our aim was for the media organizations to be able to be capable to be self-reliant, to circulate reliable and balanced information and for them to have adequate technical means. For successful implementation of these aspects we started work in several directions: helped them in improving websites; conducted trainings in online selling and taught them audio-video equipment, filming and editing. We consulted them in management organization, choosing equipment and so on.
Aside from New Media Initiative projects IREX team members go to all the regions and conduct consultations and trainings for local media outlets. Along with these programs we have another project – the so called general training in new media which open for all journalists. Such trainings were conducted three times last year and there was great interest in them.
- Regional media still has problems. For example lack of revenues and considering that how realistic is it for them to be able to equip their organizations with modern technology?
- I very much hope that upon completion of the program these media organizations will be far more independent. I’m so optimistic because majority of them used new media technologies spontaneously before the start of program; they did not have organized video-editing and website posting systems; they did not have well-developed online selling methodology and so on. Despite that our partners were very determined and we managed to create all these systems. Today, on their websites we can see such materials that cannot be created even by many newsrooms in Tbilisi. In framework of the same program, for several regional media organizations, which had adequate human and technical resources, IREX installed local online TV-studios. This created another space for exchanging ideas.
- Internet access is still quite limited for population in regions so will these televisions be able to reach target audiences?
- I understand that Internet access is problematic but Internet develops very rapidly. 3 or 4 years ago we couldn’t even dream that many in Adjara, Samtskhe-Javakheti or Guria regions would have access to Internet. Meanwhile, Internet is spreading rapidly now. Regional media organizations have quite many Internet-users. I’ll tell you more, in Kharagauli where big business is not developed and there are no large enterprises, even there they have a small, but independent newspaper Chemi Kharagauli which has already created its website.
- When we speak about new technologies we also mean that journalists must know how to use different tools. What was the level of new media awareness in journalists before IREX trainings?
- Journalists were not very much aware of new media tools, but as I always say basic knowledge is not decisive in new media; decisive is determination and desire to learn. Unlike other sciences new media is on the surface and anyone interested can obtain it. I am surprised with the talent of our journalists; we have permanent contacts with them and they use different tools of new media very well not only for work but in their daily lives too.
- Revenues are not very high in that field; why would a journalist decide to try himself in new media?
- Such pessimism has always been present, but we should not be forgetting that Internet covers it all; many largest televisions have developed websites and their newsrooms make content in all directions. Along with that, many modern common journalists are able to actively compete with televisions equipped with helicopters and expensive cameras; this is because it is far cheaper and faster to make content in the Internet. In addition Internet audience is also very extensive – it is not let than the audiences of largest TV-Companies such as CNN and BBC. Right due to that even these broadcasters started using the web-space. Today the speed of information transmission is the most important. Today any citizen can make a good report using cheap and simple tools.
- In foreign media civil journalists are more active. Many of them pay more attention to local problems. At first site Georgia is not decentralized. Is it a problem for our media?
- I agree. This problem is acute. When IREX launched these projects our main call was for paying attention to local issues and problems. Somehow there was a wrong impression that if they would cover events underway in the capital and parliament the program would be more attractive and academic. This is not so. Of course we should pay attention to the events underway in the center, but the power of each organization lies in covering events underway among them. For me regional media organizations are interesting by the fact that I know they are concentrated right at that specific location. They are able to cover specific local events better than journalists coming from the center.
- Youth involvement in new media in Georgia is interesting. As I know IREX had another project for future journalists…
- I personally did not participate in the management of that program, although IREX has implemented a school-age juvenile program and in its framework funded educational-training courses in journalists. Thanks to that on one hand developed local media organizations which conducted those courses, as they had possibility to show themselves in a new field. On the other hand it was a good chance for school students to see how media works in reality. As for youth involvement in new media and civil journalism in general within NMI we had contacts with students. They are quite involved and use modern technologies. It is a fact that they are a great reserve and goldmine for the development of new media.
- What perspectives does multimedia journalism have for the development of new media?
- New media has a very big potential. It is not only for professional work, professional journalism. New media means many useful tools. It means such interesting usage in daily life that you will be surprised. What is good in new media is that everything here is based in Internet. You do not need an expensive PC and complicated installation software. All you need is to know necessary tools. It is not important what kind of camera we are holding, but who is holding it.
- Still, in that case many people can create content and circulate information; won’t it be complicated to protect ethical principles and determine reliability of such information?
- We live in an environment where everything is determined by competition. It is very easily understandable in Internet also where is truth and where not. We must admit that solid representatives of traditional media also circulate misinformation. I agree that anyone can circulate information in Internet; be it a journalist or representative of other profession, but being a journalist is not a guarantee of reliability; name of certain organization does not mean reliable and unbiased content. Reputation needs to be achieved and each citizen or media organization may gain it by circulating reliable information.