At its 10th anniversary, the School of Advanced Journalism, a professional program of the Independent Journalism Center in Chisinau, organized a conference about the challenges and perspectives of independent journalism.
Year 2016 at the School of Advanced Journalism (SAJ) unfolds under the sign of its ten years of activity. The 10th class of young journalists graduated from the School this summer. SAJ was launched on September 4, 2006 in order to prepare journalists for Moldovan media. Since then more than 150 young journalists graduated from this professional program.
On the occasion of the SAJ’s 10th anniversary, the representatives of all ten graduate classes gathered at the conference “Independent Journalism: Today’s Challenges and Tomorrow’s Perspectives”, held on 30 September. Former students, their trainers and special guests from abroad talked about the evolution of journalism in Moldova over the past decade and about survival chances of the independent press.
In her welcome speech, SAJ Director Sorina Stefarta said that the purpose of the event was to gather as many of the School’s graduates as possible in one place in order to speak about how journalism in Moldova developed over the past decade and what SAJ’s role was in this context. She also mentioned that all the topics discussed at the conference had been suggested by graduates and trainers via a questionnaire produced by SAJ. Sorina Stefarta summarized the results of the SAJ poll by saying that today’s journalism in Moldova lacks independence and integrity. To keep integrity is also a piece of advice for those who wish to start a career in journalism – and those who feel they cannot do it should give up, she said.
Summarizing the results of the poll, Stefarta said: “The current state of the media in Moldova is worse than ever, and the atmosphere keeps worsening. The challenges that the young people who start doing journalism face are many and diverse – financial issues, problematic editorial policies of media outlets, lack of and of general knowledge, abandonment of deontology, political recruitment. The role of the media today is, unfortunately, to do propaganda and manipulation instead of to provide correct information to the public”.
The topics were discussed in three sessions. The first one, “The role of journalistic training in the education of media
professionals”, featured four of the SAJ trainers as panelists. Vasile Botnaru, Alina Radu, Dorin Scobioala and Liliana Barbarosie (the last one representing the first graduate class of the School) shared their experience with SAJ and tried to suggest solutions for the recovery of true journalistic spirit. They particularly referred to the importance of abiding by journalistic ethics and deontology and to the need for journalistic solidarity. “If we lose the contact with journalistic conscience, we will disappear forever,” Vasile Botnaru said.
Steven Knowlton, professor of journalism at the Dublin City University, Ireland, and the author of the SAJ’s first study program, spoke about the survival of independent journalism. He mentioned that the School of Advanced Journalism is a real inspiration for him and his students. “It is the place where real journalism is made. Keep doing what you’re doing and keep the flame burning”, he concluded.
During the second session, “Today’s challenges and tomorrow’s perspectives of journalism,” our colleague Petru Clej from London, who is also reporter for RFI Romania and SAJ trainer, spoke about the crisis of ‘traditional’ journalism in the age of social networks and about the impact of social networks on the daily work of journalists. An important issue, according to Petru Clej, is the credibility of information on the networks, although, according to Clej, “it is impossible to be a journalist and not be connected to social networks”.
Journalist Lina Vdovii, author of journalistic investigations and feature reports, and member of the “Journalist’s House” community (a collective of independent reporters based in Bucharest who create in-depth feature stories about social issues in Eastern Europe), spoke about this project as a model of independent journalism and about the charm and difficulties of freelancing in mass media. She encouraged SAJ graduates and students to practice freelancing and not be afraid to leave the comfort zone of traditional media outlets. “The society we live in needs strong people. You only need to have courage and crazy enthusiasm,” Lina also said.
The conference culminated in the presentation of success stories by SAJ graduates. A representative of each of the ten generations of students spoke about the challenges of the profession and about how the SAJ led them to do correct, independent and fair journalism.
At the event, the Independent Journalism Center launched a contest for SAJ graduates. A prize of EUR 750 will be granted to the most original project or journalistic idea. Details of the contest will be posted on www.media-azi.md and www.scoaladejurnalism.md.
The conference was organized with the support of the OSCE Mission to Moldova and the Independent Journalism Center.