Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Central Asia: Jan ‘08

Training sessions across the region lead to rise in volume and quality of output.
By IWPR Central Asia
IWPR editors report an increase in the number and quality of RCA stories following three training sessions held by the team in December in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakstan.

The first two-day workshop took place on December 22 to 23 and was run by IWPR Tajikistan on international standards of journalism in the northern Soghd region. Sixteen journalists took part.

The second two-day workshop was run by media consultant and international trainer Marcus Tanner and Uzbek and Turkmen editor Inga Sikorskaya in Bishkek on December 26 to 27 for 14 participants from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan.

The third event, a one-day course run jointly by Marcus Tanner and IWPR Central Asia Regional Editor Elina Karakulova, took place in Almaty on January 25 to 26. Nine journalists from the regions of Kazakstan took part in this event.

The Bishkek and Almaty sessions were designed to strengthen the network of reporters cooperating with IWPR and had a strongly practical emphasis.

Aimed at directly enhancing the writing skills of participants, and helping them reach an international audience more effectively, the courses helped increase the RCA output to 28 stories and special reports in December and 23 in first three weeks of January, in spite of it being a traditionally quiet time for news.

During the Bishkek workshop, participants spent part of the day going over certain typical problem areas in writing while the afternoon they were encouraged to apply their skills to on-the-spot story writing, using office facilities at their disposal.

Several participants, all practicing journalists, said they had appreciated the hands-on experience they gained during the exercises.

“I enjoyed the event which was full of practical tasks. In the following month, I was able to write two stories for RCA, which my editors said were of a high quality,” said one young participant from Uzbekistan.

The Bishkek event proved useful for more experienced colleagues, too. Esen Sishkaraev, deputy editor-in-chief of the Jalalabad regional newspaper Vzgliad (View) in Kyrgyzstan, told us that trainees received a wealth of new information and skills over the two days, and he could feel the difference in his own.

“It’s great that IWPR is able to provide such experience, bringing in international editors, and we will definitely be able to provide a better picture from here not only to local, but also an international audience,” he said.

Attendees of the Tajik course also spoke highly of the training delivered. Hurshod Atovulloev, editor-in-chief of Tajik newspaper Faraj, and director of the Centre for Investigative Reporting, admitted he is “usually sceptical” of such events, as international media organisations “don’t know the reality” of being a Tajik journalist.

However, this workshop “pleasantly surprised” him, as it was clearly organised, with theory backed up by practice, which is always helpful, he said.

According to regular IWPR Tajik contributor Alsimbegim Manzarshoeva, the training session was particularly useful for those who write frequently for IWPR, as it looked closely at how articles can be improved.

“I found the practical part of the training - discussing story ideas - very useful. During practical exercises based on our previous writing we could clearly see what our typical mistakes are,” he said.

Since the training sessions took place, IWPR’s local editors have noticed an increase in the number and quality of stories received.

Three published stories came hot on the heels of the Bishkek event, and more are anticipated following the recent workshop in Almaty.

Regional editor Elina Karakulova said she expects at least six stories that will improve coverage of Kazakstan, with some of the submissions coming from the regions.

Uzbek and Turkmen editor Inga Sikorskaya said she also noticed an improvement in the quality of stories following the training. She said that more human interest articles had been produced and that contributors had successfully used colour-writing to brighten up their pieces.

Marcus Tanner said he had appreciated both events in which he was involved as a two-way process. “I certainly felt some of the participants enjoyed the courses, judging by the spirited conversations and debates we had about writing good leads, where to use quotes and getting story flow right,” he said.

“At the same time, I learned a huge amount about the countries of the region from the participants. The team of Tajik reporters who came to Bishkek gave me a whole lot of new insights about that country, which was great, as I didn’t get to Dushanbe.”

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