Project news & updates

MediaNext: Transforming Ukrainian media

29 July 2009 | PROJECT NEWS


Ukrainian students are getting to grips with the latest web tools, including Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, thanks to a new project run by EJC and Internews Ukraine, and funded by MATRA. The project, named MediaNext, has now reached all parts of the country. 

It kicked off in April 2009, when the MediaNext team launched its blog in LiveJournal, the most popular blogging service in Ukraine, to continually report on project development and build a network of supporters. Currently 155 journalists are following this blog which is in Ukrainian language. The \“Blog as Web 2.0\” platform proved itself to be an effective communication tool. It received 1738 visits in one day, which is impressive for a newly-established blog. As a result of the first call for applications, the MediaNext team received 201 applications in May followed by106 more in June.

Preparation for the sessions were conducted by the MediaNext team—two new media experts from Ukraine and one from Columbia University, Ben Colmery. While the curriculum was being developed, new media itself became a vital tool in team communication and coordination. Google Documents allowed them to prepare these sessions as they worked on separate continents. Communication was possible through five Skype conferences conducted May-June. 

When the MediaNext team was visiting MediaBarCamp-2009 in Lithuania, the conference calls united a US expert in New Jersey, Ukrainian trainers in Kiev, and the MediaNext team in Vilnius. As a result 60 pages of materials were developed that were very helpful for participants during the training sessions. The uniqueness of the MediaNext programme is that each participant of the June-July regional training sessions used a PC or laptop with high speed internet during the two days of training. 

Participants could immediately practise their acquired skills. “Social media like Twitter are quickly becoming some of the most important tools for journalists and NGOs to broadcast information”, said Ben Colmery. “Learning how to use these tools will make it much easier for them easily reach new audiences in a media industry that is rapidly shifting away from traditional media. I think this training really helped them to catch up with what is happening in the rest of the world.” 

The first sessions showed that Ukrainian journalists were not skilled enough in new media to work with it effectively. In many cases, new media tools were used as a communication platform privately. Journalists had rarely used Twitter, blogs or Facebook to find information or share results from their own reporting. \“One thing I think they all needed, and all benefited from,” said Colmery, “was not just how to log in and perform basic functions of the sites. We helped them learn how to use these sites in conjunction with one another to form a new media strategy. They gained important skills for marketing their content, measuring and understanding their audiences, and expanding their online networks for communications and organizing. In my estimation, these are skills that are vital to the future viability of news media and civic action in Ukraine.” 

Olena Goraguts, editor-in-chief of Litsa newspaper (Dnipropetrovsk) describes in her blog a dialogue with her 14 year-old son as motivation to apply for MediaNext. “Son, I wonder what is Web 2.0?” “Mom, you will hardly ever need it”: “Son how does RSS work? “Mom, don’t bother me, I don’t know!” Igor Zapadenko, editor of Khmelnytskyi portal got into the practice of online Twitter reports from sessions of the city council to share information immediately. He also said he plans to conduct follow up events for local journalists in his native Khmelnytsky. 

Andriy Voinytskyi from Kharkiv-based Status-Quo news agency updates Twitter with the most important news. During the training session he sent urgent news on corruption in court and his post was retweeted by a couple of Twitter users with 200+ followers. Now Andriy is thinking of creating a Facebook group for his news agency. Oleksiy Shestakovskyi from Kyiv updated Twitter with a report from a roundtable on forthcoming elections. His followers were the first ones receiving reports on this issue. MediaNext and EJC plan to conduct three further advanced sessions for journalists in “Module 2: A Course on Communication Utilizing New Media”. The course will be implemented in Kiev, Odesa, and Kharkiv in late August and early September. 

MediaNext (formerly New Media Initiative for Ukraine) is a Ukrainian-Dutch new media project conducted through cooperation between the European Journalism Centre and Internews Ukraine and funded by MATRA.

New Media Initiative for Ukraine
Through this project, the EJC and Internews Ukraine sought to improve the new media skills of both media practitioners and citizens. At a time when Internet penetration in the country was rising at record speed, the EJC lined up a series of workshops and online resources that aimed to empower Ukrainians and boost local media’s reporting capacity and production quality by using online tools.

MATRA, Societies in Transition
MATRA, a programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, constituted an effort to support democratic transition in the Western Balkans, Central, and Eastern Europe, and strengthen the ties of the target countries with the Netherlands. The EJC participated in five media-related projects, from 1995 and up to the programme's conclusion in 2011.