Multimedia workshops in Siberia
I’ve spent the last week working with young radio & print journalists from all over Russia. We’d all converged in the city of Abakan, which if you check it out on Google Maps sits somewhere in the heart of Siberia, not far from the Mongolian border, in a landscape surrounded by vast mountains and dark icy rivers.
It was part of a festival organised by the Eurasia Foundation, and I’d been invited to speak about Next Generation Journalism, new business models for journalism and help out with a multimedia workshop.
It was great to speak with journalists with different perspectives about the future of news. Although ad revenues are down and the internet is fragmenting audiences, the impression I gathered was that job losses haven’t been as severe as in the UK and the US.
A freelance-free country?
In introducing my book Next Generation Journalist, and the concept of a portfolio career to audiences in Abakan, I got an interesting reaction. It turns out that in Russia, freelancing just isn’t an established way of earning a living.
There are all sorts of valid economical and historical reasons for this but it left many asking me how they’d actually start life as a freelancer. How do you pitch work? Do companies come to you, or the other way around?
What is similar though is the commitment to using multimedia to tell stories online. Home to mail.ru, one of the most valuable companies on the stock exchange right now, Russia is no internet backwater. Journalists there are experimenting with video and audio slideshows and working out how to incorporate it with their more traditional practice.
One group of young radio reporters from the Urals were able to turn around a wonderful slideshow, combining text, audio and music with photography to tell a powerful story about a tram accident. They used free software to make the whole thing work. (Reaper for audio editing – a new one on me; and Windows Movie Maker to assemble the photo sequence.)
But the big question of the week was: how do we juggle all these different mediums and still report accurately what is happening? As I wrote, after my own work in Iraq last year, the answer is ‘with great difficulty…but it gets easier with practice.’
And it sounds like these talented Russian journalists, not always working in the safest or easiest of conditions, are committed to practicing their new skills as much as possible.