Cox International Center welcomes young Georgian journalists for digital media training

From March 28 to April 8, 21 early-to-mid-career journalists from the country Georgia are at Grady College taking classes in the area of digital media. 

Following a week at Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, the young group of international journalists is now spending two weeks in Athens, studying multi-platform storytelling, media engineering, convergence in the newsroom, execution of fact-checking operations and new trends in media business models.

Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the Georgia Media Education Program (MEP) is a partnership between the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research and the New Media Institute, both units of Grady College, along with Poynter Institute.

Tudor Vlad moderates discussion between Georgian journalists and Grady students.
Tudor Vlad moderates the discussion between Georgian journalists and Grady students. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder)

“We are very happy that this program, funded by a grant awarded to the Cox International Center in 2019, is finally taking place,” said Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox Center. “In the last three years, we’ve planned and rescheduled the visit of the Georgian journalists many times, due to COVID restrictions. Now, after five days at the Poynter Institute in Florida, our guests are here in Grady College for two weeks.”

Listening to lectures and participating in discussions in Grady classrooms, the international journalists are reviewing how storytelling has been impacted in the digital era, how U.S. media organizations work and develop new business models, how to effectively use social media platforms, how to transition from print to digital storytelling, the role of media in the process of democratization in transitional societies, and the relationship between media and government in emerging democracies. 

“It’s a great experience,” said Rusudan Panozishvili, a freelance journalist from Georgia participating in the program. “We are meeting really experienced professionals. We also are gaining some practical, hands-on experience. It’s overwhelming to be on this huge campus, which is really impressive.” 

Rusudan Panozishvili speakes to Grady students during March 31 lunch.
Rusudan Panozishvili speaks to Grady students during March 31 lunch. (Photo: Jackson Schroeder.)

During the day, the student group participates in courses taught by Amanda Bright, a journalism professor and the director of the Cox Institute Journalism Innovation Lab, Leah Moss, an instructor and the emerging media faculty advisor at the New Media Institute, John Weatherford, senior lecturer in emerging media studies and the New Media Institute, and David Hazinski, professor emeritus. 

The Georgian journalists certainly are not the only ones benefiting from this visit. On March 31, the group also participated in a lunch in Grady’s Peyton Anderson Forum with a cohort of current Grady students. The Grady students were awarded the opportunity to ask the Georgian group a series of questions about their country and professional experiences.

 “We think that their presence in our school is beneficial to them and also to our students, who have the opportunity to learn about media in emerging democracies in the former Soviet space,” Vlad explained.


Ninth Consecutive Annual Workshop in Bucharest Organized by the Cox International Center

Grady College alumni and faculty led an international discussion on fake news at a workshop in Bucharest, Romania, in early October.

Alina Bargaoanu, dean of the College of Communication and Public Relations of the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, Bucharest, Romania, said that fake news is a proxy, albeit popular term for the larger phenomenon of disinformation 2.0 that refers to machine-driven, technology-powered disinformation.

“It is qualitatively different from traditional, people-driven disinformation carried out through traditional media,” Bargaoanu told the forty participants in the two-day program in early October. “What we are witnessing right now is a new arms race, a proliferation of technology-powered disinformation, a phenomenon for which intellectual, regulatory and research tools have only recently started to emerge.”

The Fake News and Information Disorders in the Digital Age workshop was the ninth consecutive annual event organized in Bucharest by the College of Communication and Public Relations at the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration and by the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia. The Cox International Center is an international outreach unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Charles Davis, dean of Grady College, said that in today’s media environment, trust is the single most important element in fighting disinformation.

“The purveyors of falsehood are attacking the very tenets of sound journalism, making it more important than ever for us to include the public in what we do – and don’t do – to demonstrate sound journalistic practice in our newsrooms and to foster engagement with our readers and viewers,” Davis told the participating faculty, students and journalists in the room.

“The everyday work of fact-checkers across the EU shows how valuable such collaboration could be.” — Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17)

“Last week, 60-odd fact-checkers and onlookers gathered in Brussels for a conference aimed at promoting collaboration ahead of the 2019 European Parliament elections,” said Daniel Funke (ABJ ’17), fact-checking reporter for the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida, and a graduate of Grady College. “The everyday work of fact-checkers across the EU shows how valuable such collaboration could be. False political claims and viral hoaxes get recycled across the continent with minor edits. Working together could get fact checks out faster and to a much larger audience.”

Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, said that the concept of fake news has been used in recent years by leaders of emerging democracies to avoid answering specific questions asked by journalists. “Rather than addressing legitimate questions related to lack of transparency in the governance, corruption or nepotism, these leaders have started blaming the media and accusing them of producing fake news. This is very dangerous and it has the potential to create confusion among citizens and to lower their trust in the free press.”

In response to what Vlad said, David Hazinski, professor emeritus of journalism and president of Intelligent Media Consultants, argued that media have their share of responsibility for the current situation.

“To be honest, I don’t think the people I met are yet willing to look at themselves as part of the problem,” Hazinski said. “Media often represents the interests of government or oligarchs and is thus easy to attack, or adheres to traditional communications methods like emailed policy statements and minister interviews instead of video storytelling and social media. Fake news may never go away, but we have to create yardsticks that allow audiences to gauge the validity of information, which means taking a look at how we operate as well as the trolls.”

Remus Pricopie, rector of the Romanian university, emphasized in the opening session that more than 25 workshops, conferences and faculty exchanges have been organized in ten years of partnership between the University of Georgia and the National University of Political Studies and Public Administration, and 15 books and studies have been published as a result of the joint research.

Murrow Program at Grady College

Grady College and the Cox International Center are pleased to again be selected as a host location for the Murrow Program.

The Cox Center will host 24 participants from all over the world, along with four program officers that will accompany the Murrow participants.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program.

Goals of the program are to:

*Examine the rights and responsibilities of a free press in a democracy and the principles and laws governing the press in the United States;

*Gain an understanding of the evolution, current status, and trends in journalistic investigations and research in the United States;

*Explore unique aspects that distinguish investigative reporting from traditional journalism;

*Understand the role that investigative journalists play in U.S. society as they raise awareness of issues of social concern and report on illegal, irregular, or abusive actions on behalf of government, politicians, criminals or corporations;

*Assess the impact of social media, new communication technologies, citizen journalism, and alternative forms of investigative reporting

Tudor Vlad named director of the Cox Center

Tudor Vlad has been named the director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research. Vlad, who has served as the center’s associate director since 2008, assumed his director responsibilities when Lee Becker retired June 30, 2017.

“Tudor is imminently qualified to continue the great work fostered by the Cox International Center in the years ahead,” said Charles Davis, dean of Grady College where the Cox Center is based. “I’m indebted to Tudor for his willingness to jump right in and help me with several international initiatives emerging.”

Vlad has a doctorate from the Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Bucharest. He came to the Cox Center as a Fulbright senior scholar. Prior to moving to Georgia, Vlad was a member of the faculty of the Department of Journalism at the Babes-Bolyai University, which he founded and chaired. He is a director of the World Free Press Institute and is the author of two non-fiction books, four novels and numerous studies, scholarly materials and articles published in the United States and in Europe.

Vlad is excited about the future of the Cox Center. “What I want to do is to use the international expertise of Grady faculty who focus on communication, and partner with other UGA units, such as the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and SPIA. This multidisciplinary approach will be beneficial to the international visibility of the University of Georgia.”

Vlad has been involved in more than 53 U.S. led international programs in 23 countries that foster democracy and stability in emerging democracies by promoting freedom of speech, independent media and inter-ethnic dialog. He has conducted training programs for journalists and journalism educators in Belarus, Hungary, Kenya, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro, and Ukraine, among others.

Vlad has been recognized by numerous organizations for his work including, most recently, the Intellectual Dialogue and Educational Advancement Society for his “valuable efforts towards continuously fostering democracy and stability globally.”

The  Cox Center was created in 1985, and in 1990 was named for the late James M. Cox Jr., chairman of the board of Cox Enterprises. Each year, the center conducts multiple media workshops for journalists from around the world, publishes technical reports and directs research on a variety of topics related to the practice of journalism around the world. To date, more than 142 training programs have been offered involving journalists from all over the world. The Cox Center has also been the proud host of the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists the past eight years.