Hit pieces, gag orders, fakes, activism, media ownership, targeting, social network algorithms, new media… what do all these words mean to you? They are the matter of work of a journalist in the development of digital technologies. Revolutions, civic activism, fighting propaganda, falsifications, manipulations. And what do these words stand for? They are related to the work of an activist and journalist who raises socially important topics. Journalism and activism are one. A journalist cannot be indifferent, he is, by default, an activist. While activism without journalism does not possess the necessary force to create real change at the national level. There might be a decent initiative, but if no one knows about it, it doesn’t exist for the public. Therefore, in November-December 2020, the All-Ukrainian Initiative “Active Community” held a School of Civic Journalism which taught students to combine activism and journalism.

The training was tailored for students of journalism, beginner-journalists, activists, members of public organizations, as well as anyone interested in the topic of civic journalism.

The trainer of the school was Tetiana Kavunenko, a journalist and public activist, the head of the press service of the Institute “Respublica” and the All-Ukrainian Initiative “Active Community”.

The course was attended by about 30 participants from all regions of Ukraine: Mykolaiv, Rivne, Odesa, Kyiv, Kramatorsk, Skadovsk, Ostroh, Zaporizhzhia, Lviv, Vinnytsia, Irpin, Malyn, Cherkasy, Starobilsk and other cities.

The training course comprised 5 modules covering the following topics:

Module 1 “The watchdog of democracy or why media play a key role in the development of civil society”. During the module, participants learned what civic journalism is and how it differs from news journalism. They also studied the basic standards of journalism and journalistic ethics, considered the concepts of quality, promptness and reliability. Additionally, during this module, students found out what activism is and how it relates to journalism.

Together with the lecturer, the participants learned how to identify the target audience and how to reach it with their messages. The practical task was to write a success story of each person’s community. The three best pieces were published on the website of the Institute “Respublica”:

“From State Farm to Economic Cluster. Success Story of Avanhard Village”: https://inrespublica.org.ua/bez-kategoriyi-uk/z-radgospu-v-ekonomichnyj-klaster-istoriya-uspihu-selyshha-avangard.html

“How Kramatorsk Residents Fought for “Cultural Independence”: https://inrespublica.org.ua/aktyvna-hromada/yak-kramatorchany-kulturnu-nezalezhnist-vyboryuvaly.html

“From Freshmen Students to Community Leaders. Success Story from Starobilsk”: https://inrespublica.org.ua/aktyvna-hromada/vid-studentiv-pershakiv-do-gromadskyh-diyachiv.html

During module 2 “Fact-checking or how not to get lost in junk information?”, participants studied what media literacy is, learned how to identify fakes, hit pieces and tampering media materials from professional journalistic pieces. Students had an opportunity to solidify the acquired knowledge immediately on practical examples from the media.

They were also taught to identify black PR and propaganda in the media.

The participants learned how to check information for reliability and got acquainted with fact-checking tools.

The homework was to find examples of fakes, hit pieces and propaganda in the media, analyse them and prove that the specific piece had violated journalistic standards and to cite the link to the original source.

During module 3 “Peculiarities of work in social networks”, students learned what social networks are and what are their advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional media. They also considered the types of social networks. Special attention, during the training, was paid to work with Facebook. In particular, the lecturer presented Facebook algorithms and work timing.

The participants studied to write Facebook posts on the subject of activism and also learned to work with Instagram.

They considered timing and algorithms of the social network.

The homework for the participants was to write 2 posts: on Instagram and Facebook, based on an analytical material published on the website of the Institute “Respublica”. Thus, participants learned to adapt the same content to different social networks.

Module 4 dealt with the topic “Multimedia as an effective tool for the work of a journalist”. During the training, the participants considered the concept of multimediality in media and in the work of a journalist covering the topic of public activities. They got acquainted with multimedia devices and multimedia content. Additionally, students learned what hyperlinks are, their types, and how they affect SEO. During the lecture, they learned to use interactive forms of engaging the audience.

The participants acquired the skills needed for a journalist creating multimedia content. They considered such aspects as photo content, photo banks and photo editors, and also learned to work in the graphic editor Canva. In addition, they considered the issue of video content in the media, video editors and received step-by-step instructions for creating videos.

Finally, the students considered the notion of a long read, the stages of working on it, and examples of long reads.

The homework for the participants was to create an image with New Year’s greeting for the Facebook page of All-Ukrainian Initiative “Active Community” in the graphic editor Canva.

Module 5 covered 2 topics at once: “Media ownership and how to write about reforms or why the policy of the Groysman’s government failed?”. During the training, participants learned more about the structure of media ownership of Ukrainian media, namely, of the largest media holdings, as well as about the financing and management of the Public Broadcaster in Ukraine.

The participants analysed how ownership of media outlets affected the editorial policy. They reviewed the index of freedom of speech in Ukraine and Europe and got acquainted with the basic principles of working with materials related to reforms in Ukraine.

According to the participants, the acquired knowledge will help them better navigate in the information space, they have learned to check information, work in social networks and graphic editors.

“Practical tasks and homework were particularly interesting. They helped to solidify the acquired theoretical knowledge in practice,” a student of the School noted.

The participants who have completed the whole training and completed all homework will receive certificates. The participant who got the highest score during the training will have an opportunity to undertake a 2-month long online internship at the press service of the Institute “Respublica” and the All-Ukrainian Initiative “Active Community” in January – February 2020.

For reference. The event was held within the project “Right of Choice” implemented with the support of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and with the financial support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Note. The mission of the “Active Community” is to achieve prosperity through the democratic development of Ukrainian communities. The goal for 2025 is to activate and involve at least 1% of citizens in decision-making and promotion of reforms in Ukraine on a systemic basis for the well-being of Ukrainian communities. The initiative was created through the activities of the Institute “Respublica”.

Authored by Tetiana Kavunenko, the head of the press service of the Institute “Respublica” and the All-Ukrainian Initiative “Active Community”