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Mass Media and Access to Information Group

A "Mass Media and Access to Information" group was one of 11 breakout topical groups at the U.S. Russia Civil Society Partnership Gathering in Washington, D.C., on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 15-16, 2013. These notes show how we considered and arrived at a framework for media collaboration on a burning topic which faces the people of both nations. Other groups considered gender equality, migration, public health, higher education, child protection, education and youth, community development, anti-corruption/business practices, and public health and environmental protection.

Who was in the room?

Participants in the media working group included:

  • Anna Koshman, executive director of the Alliance of Independent REgional Publishers -- it includes 62 publishing houses and electronic media.
  • Galina Arapova, she is a a media lawyer, Mass Media Defence Centre, baed in central russia but works all over the country and over other CIS nations. She takes up to 100 cases on behalf of media per year. She si working to build a network of strong media lawyers around the country. That is difficult now. She teaches classes on media law. They have done it for 16 years. They have five media lawyers. She is a trustee of Article 19, an organization based in London which deals with freedom of information all around the globe. There are new offices in Mexico and Asia. Russia is not well represented in this environment. There are some problems with implementing projects in Russian when it comes to doing so with international cooperation.
  • Fyodor Kravchenko, a lawyer working for two companies. One is the Association of Mass Media Lawyer. It's role is to help lawyers to develop media practice that provide legal help to media. They would like to develop a good market for media legal services. There are 2,000-3,000 media lawyers needed in Russia to help the media do its job safely and without undue influence from the government. The second company is called Media Lawyers Collegium, a small law firm based in Moscow providing legal help to about 700 media organizations and individuals. NOt all are in the active phase. They have about 100 projects a year, maybe a bit more. There are six in house lawyers and about 100 experts, most of those outside of Moscow. This helps to provide legal help for a low feel.
  • Bill Densmore, a consultant and researcher on the future and sustainability of journalism, is an expert on Internet information technologies and business models. He is a consulting fellow to the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) at the Missouri School of Journalism. He is author of the white paper, “From Paper to Persona.” Densmore also serves as director/editor of the Media Giraffe Project at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and the New England News Forum. He’s a founding member and director of Journalism That Matters, Inc. and also serves on the boards of the New England Newspaper & Press Association and Shires Media Partnership, Inc.

  • Maria Balinska, Editor in Chief,, Cambridge, Mass. She is a journalist and entrepreneur. First part of her career was with the BBC in Poland. Her husband is Polish and he started the first commercial TV station there. She ran the BBC department that made specialist services for various international audiences. AFter grad school she was on a long fellowship at Harvard and what fascinated her was where the local meets the global. Stories that are an intersection of what's in a given country with what's happening internationally. She thought there was an appetitude fo that in the U.S. The second part of her career: She has started -- a local-global mashup. WE cover connections and parallels between Americans and the rest of the world.
  • Howard Finberg -- Is director training, partnerships and alliances for the Poynter Institute. Poynter has decided it needs to be internationalist. He spent his early career in newspapers, leaving the Arizona Republic from Central Newspapers. He left and joined Poynter to help develop their online initiatives.

What we considered

Howard: Next job is to come up with a program that will help further the mission of civil discourse between America and Russia. Funding -- $22,000 has to be distributed by April and the project should be completed by then?

Koshman: Think of something small that can be accomplished.

Finberg: Will confirm whether it needs to be done by April.

Arapova: Will this be implemented by one organization or can we bring in other organizations not at this table?

Koshman: It depends on the project. But she things it should be done within this group.

Pre-convening proposals

Maria: Suggests an webcasting event with two groups of media professionals from both countries to establish contacts and exchange practices, etc. Koshman suggested a project involving children, something like a contest of the best reporting , creating a film, etc. with participation of groups from both countries. Young readers/stories, supervised by professional journalists (Ru, US)

We brainstormed ideas for cooperation: discussing what is the aim of the session and what organization will be implementing the project, terms, budget limits, deadline.

Proposed mass-media working group projects for 2012 consideration included:

  • Implementation of a research project on new media (proposed by the Poynter Institute’s Howard Feinberg, who is the US Co-Chair of the Working Group) Ana says there was enormous interest. Howard is working with the New America Foundation to have more civil discourse in new media by changing how we behave online, but changing the wording of links. Look at specific behavior aspects of conversations and communications in online websites.

  • Development of legal services aimed to support effective operation of the Russian media sector,

  • Development of new ethical standards in the emergence of new technologies.

Kravchenko: Before talking about a specific project, what is our general goal or goals? What are we trying to influence and how?

Koshman: The Russian side is very interested new media in learning best practices. But there doesn't seem to be any interest from the U.S. side, interesting to U.S. partners and couldn't find any. The main goal of this meeting is to get some feedback on this point to create some project for the short-term to understand the situation.

Arapova: The project has to be of interest to both sides. It is not appropriate for one side to act as a tutor to the other. Both sides have to bennefit. Can both sides use the results of research for information exchange and making media better for the audience. Can we focus on something new in the field, such as the Internet. The Intenet is not regulated well in either nation. Citizens are using it on a daily basis and it is new to both nations.

Finberg: The research does address what you are talking about. It is about the way citizens use the internet in terms of civil discourse. The idea was that if there could be a Russian version of research already underway in the United State, then see what the similaries and differences are around the topic of civil discourse. That is an idea, not THE idea.

First task is what do we have in common, and where are the linkages worth building.

Koshman underlined the fact that the project suppose to be useful for both sides and there is a great interest towards US media among Russian audience, but she can’t see a similar interest from American side. Galina Arapova raised an importance of the project to be valuable for both sides and results of which would be used for both Russian and American media and civil society.

Koshman: Russian newspapers adopted many changes as a result of Poynter's Eye Track research. Russian media have a lack of research about how to make best use of web and Internet services.

Kravchenko: Collect information about American and Russian NGOs working in media. It is not possible in a few months to develop a real program. but mapping the media NGO landscape of the two countries would provide useful information for the future.

Arapova: Media ecosystem is well know in Russia. And it is changing all the type. It might not be useful to map it.

Densmore suggestion: A people to people networking around climate change. Agrees doing something around the web is the right approach because both nations are grappling with it. We are all infants in our use of the web and its impact on journalism and media consumption and creation is still little understood. Suggests a topic around climate change.

Finberg: Trying to find a project that involves media, access to information that will engage the public, either directly or through the media. Two project ideas so far: 1) Research better internet behaviors and (2) Mapping Media development landscape (3) A media-facilitated dialog around a topic. 4) Citizen journalism and how it is improving regular journalism. 5) A contest involving young readers and stories

Balinska: Pick a story where the are misreprestations in both countries on the same topic. Do some exchange reporting to try to examine those misperceptions.

Idea begins to emerge: "Media bridge"?

Finberg: Development of a framework for understanding misrepresentation. Erroneous impressions. Something that would break down the barrier of perceptions between American media and Russian media by working on something together. This would be called a "Media Bridge."

Kravchencko: I like this project a lot. How would this project work?

Finberg: There is something personal. It is about making connections. if we make connections -- 10 on either side, it is a measurable success. And those kinds of success leads to other kinds of success. It has excitement to me, I don't know why.

Arapova: She talks about a group that has done an Internet-based project gathering information on forest fires in Russia. In a few days they have collected and mapped all the spots on the map of russia which needed help and coordinated help. Working as moderators of big information spot on the internet. Good example of citizens, journalists, activists and regular citizens can collaborate.


Arapova: Talks about a firefighter in New YOrk who in three days developed a huge Facebook group around help for victims of hurricane Sandy. That was created by one person un-related to media. But Media took that facebook group and make it a great source.

Kravchenko: Would like to hear Howard's idea in a little more detail so we can choose. Finberg explains two research projects which are still in formative stages so they are not public.

Balinska: In doing international projects, she has found journalists are conservation and skeptical about collaboration. So how do you deal with that. Could we have a Space Bridge like conversation among journalists between the U.S. and Russia.

Koshman: LIkes the idea of No. 3 -- a media-citizen dialog project, could be accomplished with children writing a story or video with audience or journalists. Anna's group did an international constest on Christmas stories written by children, and the best were published in newspapers. Example: Best photos of cities you like.

Finberg: How do we have something that will have a chance of having a connection where no connection exists today.

Balinska: Are we trying to bring citizens together, or journalists together or both?

Finberg: It was my mind we were about journalists and people involved in media, not about the public. He thinks our best area of interest is regional media.

Koshman: Why don't we select a project that will be of interest to both countries and then design the project around it.

Densmore: Key components:

  • Involves citizens as well as journalists
  • Revolves around a single topical ideas with strong public appeal
  • Uses innovative aspects of web technology

4Ideally involves some real-time exchange at a point in time

Arapova: Maybe it would be good if media supported the work of another group rather than came up with it on its own.

Finberg: Public health, obesity, child welfare?

IDEA gells: A web-based public project examination?

Arapova: Ask media to support a web-based public examine of a project

Koshman: Basic idea is pick up some ideas from other groups. But we have to decide what are we going to do with the topics.

Finberg: If we do this right, the topics will come to us.

Densmore: How do we create a framework for media collaboration of burning topics -- common problems which face the people of both nations.

Balinska: Framework needs to be really sharp. Pushing back on citizen involvement. Getting journalists to work together even in one country is difficult. Be clear about what kind of collaboration we see. use the Internet to increase understanding in both nations.

Arapova: A sharing of experience.

GOAL: Create a framework for media collaboration of burning topics -- common problems which face the people of both nations. Goal to use the power of the Internet to strength relationships between individual journalists and media organization.

Discussion continues around what specifically will we do. What do we mean by framework.

Finberg: Soliciting proposals for small microgrants to fund journalism projects. For both journalists and citizen journalists.

Koshman: Regional journalists don't speak English, so working on them on a day to day business would be not possible.

Balinksa: What about juried connection on a parallel basis between a single Russian journalist and a single U.S. journalist on a common coverage issue, with bilingual editors supplied to facilitate.

Discussion about have the journalist being able to do something bypassing the journalist, to add the Russian component.

Balinksa: work among and between U.S. and Russian journalists, facilitated by editors.

Arapova: Expressing small concern: Should this be dependent on if there is an editor interested, if there is a topic and if there is a jouranlist interested. There should be a free flow between and among journalists in both places. There should be diversity in terms of ways to connect. Not just one way of bringing in people, providing resources or facilitation or interpreter if you have to then wait to see if an editor will publish it.

Balinska: If we put a callout in English and one in Russian -- we have on the one hand the narrow aim of getting two journalists two work together, working on content, they have an editor to publish. Suppose 50 people from each country get in touch. then we tell anybody who applies to us that we are going to be putting your ideas up on this site and we will be choosing one or two or whatever, but you must be ready and happy that your ideas and contacts are up there. If we fund two, the other 48 are free to collaborate themselves. We would support the ideas of other groups.

Finberg: It could be as simple as a Wordpress blog.

We discussed a bit whether such a project would be inconsistent in any way with new Russian laws governing foreign agents. .