From 8 to 13 July, twenty students from four countries participated in the second stage of the International School of Multimedia Journalism (ISMJ). As previously, the organizers of the event included the UCU Department of Media Communications, the Institute of Journalism and Media Management at University of Applied Sciences Vienna, and the Austrian Bureau for Cooperation in Lviv.
There were four teams for multimedia stories, with six students each from Ukraine and Austria and four each from Georgia and Denmark. According to Ulyana Makarenko, head of the Master’s Program in Media Communications, in addition to providing the experience of intercultural exchange, a school like this also provides two-sided professional development, in journalism, that is, looking for subjects, conducting an interview and preparing a text, and also in multimedia, the development of technical skills, namely: photography, shooting, editing, and layout.
Throughout the week, the students worked on themes related to problems of social responsibility. So participants worked on the themes of domestic violence, the immigration of Ukrainians, problems of ecology, and the closing of the Lviv office of the ZIK TV channel. In the words of the organizers, the students’ themes are becoming better and better, because they are able to investigate more deeply and write more professional interviews. Progress is even noticeable at the level of team work: if the students get acquainted in Vienna at the first stage, then in Lviv they are ready to work, taking into account the experience gained.
As to the content of the school’s program, every year it is less and less theoretical: previously, there were daily lectures, but this has now been shortened to one or two meetings. The students dedicate the rest of their time to projects. This time they got acquainted with the organization For a Better Sykhiv and toured the Dzherelo Children’s Rehabilitation Centre. In attention to touring the city, an important part of the project was getting acquainted with the culinary culture, thanks to which foreign students should be able to feel a connection with Ukrainian traditions.
Throughout their work on the projects, the students worked with mentors. At the stage in Ukraine, the participants were helped by documentary director Dmytro Konovalov, screenwriter and director Zhanna Ozirna, videographer and teacher Taras Kostyrko, and director and teacher Andriy Pryimachenko.
The participants gave details about the school. UCU student Valentyna Kuz said: “My young team worked on a project on the theme of domestic violence with the name ‘Beating means loving.’ The theme was of concern for my colleagues. They were shocked by the phrase ‘Beating means loving’ in post-Soviet countries.”
As the young lady recounted, working with foreign students is always a challenge. At first it was necessary to overcome the language barrier: regardless of a sufficient level of knowledge, the absence of regular practice sometimes made it difficult to explain one’s ideas immediately. “Nevertheless, as soon as I applied myself to this task, we understood that customs of how character is demonstrated are also different in all countries. So we had to handle a few conflicts within the team,” added Ms. Kuz. And so a significant minus for her was the fact that she had to do quite a bit of the work: conduct interviews, translate texts, and edit the video. This was because it was necessary to present the project in English, but all the stages included communication with Ukrainian-speaking commentators and experts.
“For me, this school was like the old way to learn how to swim: they simply throw you in the water. Right here I improved my skills in editing, conducting interviews with various methods, and the ability to organize the work process in a team. For us, the Lviv project was more successful than what we did in Vienna,” Ms. Kuz summed up.
For Sopo Apriamashvili, a student of the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, the school was her first project abroad. At the start she was nervous, but the atmosphere was such that finally the young lady became calmer and more productive: “In Lviv we chose the theme of immigration. We consider that people who leave their native countries to help members of their families and friends have a good understanding of social responsibility. We were aware that it is difficult to work in another country, sometimes without even knowing the language.”
On her team Ms. Apriamashvili was responsible for the visual aspects of the project, generally photos and video. Finally, she is convinced that the school was a good opportunity to work with people from various countries and cultures: “As far as I understood, each country has its own vision of creating a multimedia product, which is very interesting. Thanks to this, you learn from others and share your own experience. This is very useful for your future career.”
Ms. Apriamashvili also said that she liked the city itself very much: its greenery and architecture, a combination of Soviet and old European buildings. The UCU atmosphere gave an opportunity to study and to relax, which also did not allow motivation to be lost. However, her best memory were the lake near the UCU campus on Khutorivka Street and… aked apples with cottage cheese.
A fellow member of Ms. Apriamashvili’s team and a representative of the Viennese side, Vincent Leb, found out about the school at his university. Up to the last minute, he wasn’t certain he would participate, but the day before the deadline he decided to take the opportunity, and he has no regrets. In his words, the theme chosen allowed them not to simply respond but to pose a question: Is immigration a socially responsible act? In this way, the students wanted to make it less abstract and engage concrete faces in interviews.
“I think I’m ready for teamwork, at least it seemed so in the case of the ISMJ. I think that I actively led the process of looking for a theme, and then ‘translated’ it into a story, together with wonderful Asta, from Denmark. This was the pleasant part of work in my team: we all had varying interests and talents, which complemented one another. In this way, others instantly proposed how to transform my unclear ideas into great scenes, a video, visual effects… I’m happy that I was able to work with them!” So Mr. Leb spoke of his impressions. In addition, the young man noted that the team had certain problems with communication in Vienna, though by now everyone has learned how to take into account each one’s interests and possibilities, speaking “one language.”
Lviv, for the student of the Vienna school, was magical. This is the farthest eastern European city that he has visited, and now he is motivated to discover other nearby locations. He also found out that Ukraine is the poorest country in Europe, which answered a number of his questions about the particularities of the life of its citizens. Among the school’s deficiencies, Mr. Leb admits his “excessive organizing,” because at home he is used to working in a freer format. He also would have liked to work with a mentor who, in addition to technical skills, had a greater mastery of journalistic practice. Nevertheless, these matters did not influence his general impression of the school: he received priceless experience working in an international environment.
Next year the International School of Multimedia Journalism will take up the theme of women’s roles in society. Participants from all Ukraine will be invited and they generally should prepare a description of their future project.
Text: Antonina Chundak
Photos: Ulyana Makarenko, Oleksandra Bahmet, Alina Dziubko