The Cleveland professional chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) hosted four journalists from the Kyrgyz Republic on Monday, Jan. 31 in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts. Carrie Buchanan, a professor in the department and vice president of the SPJ Cleveland chapter, was excited about the event.
“I was really happy that we could host this event at John Carroll so that our students and faculty could share the experience of meeting these journalists,” she said.
The guests, who work in various radio and television outlets in the Kyrgyz Republic, came as part of the International Visitor Leadership Program through the U.S. Department of State and, locally, through the Cleveland Council on World Affairs (CCWA). According to Buchanan, the CCWA and SPJ have a close relationship through Richard Hendrickson, a part-time associate professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts. The guests were joined by, among others, John Carroll students, WJCU-FM director and adjunct associate professor Mark Krieger and WCPN-FM host and producer David Wellman.
Journalists from Japan visited JCU in the summer of 2009 through the same SPJ-CCWA partnership.
“But they came during the summer break, when students weren’t around to share in the experience,” Buchanan said.
The journalists shared stories about their experiences in the business and talked about their individual jobs at different media enterprises.
Lola Kulinova, the founder and director of Volna Issyk-Kulya TV and Radio Company, explained that even though her radio station was not able to obtain a license from the government to broadcast, they were on the air for nearly an hour from another station.
“And we highlighted the issues within that one hour on the air – the issues of gender equality, the rights of immigrants, and also various comments encouraging the development of a democratic society,” she said through an interpreter.
Gulmira Osmonova, the executive director of Mediamost Public Foundation in the Talas province in the northwest part of the country, explained that her radio station, which launched in July 2007, is similar to community radio. The station uses a network of village reporters to gather news. Osmonova, Krieger and Wellman discussed the comparisons between their forms of community radio at Mediamost, WJCU-FM and WCPN-FM.
Ulukbubu Amirova works as the program director of Radio Salam in Batken, in the south. The radio station was set up to air unbiased reports to target youth living in the area. The station, which is run completely by young people, will celebrate its tenth anniversary in April of this year. Radio Salam, which was set up by non-journalists, who learned everything by trial-and-error, according to Amirova.
“We were basically imitating what we saw or what we heard on airwaves,” she said. “We didn’t know a jingle was called a jingle. We knew that there had to be something preceding the newscast, so we made up jingles of our own.”
Buchanan liked that Amirova sang the jingle Radio Salam used.
“I loved it when Amirova sang the jingle they had produced for Radio Salam, and it was clear that other members of the delegation were very familiar with it,” she said.
Bekmamat Kochkonov, the technical director of Public TVR Company EITR, has been a broadcaster for 15 years. The station is the second largest national broadcaster in the Kyrgyz Republic and was designated a public broadcasting station in December 2005 by the president.
Buchanan observed that other countries do not enjoy freedom of speech rights like those in the United States.
“Broadcasters in other countries work under very different conditions than we experience here, where the First Amendment guarantees us many rights,” she said. “Kyrgyzstan has a history of Soviet intervention and censorship, which is why each of the independent radio and television stations the delegation came from is so young.”
Overall, Buchanan thought the event was a success.
“I felt we had a wonderful visit, learned something, shared it with students and faculty, and really brought an interesting event to the department,” she said.