I’m done with my training sessions for journalists in Kazakhstan, and this trip really stretched the boundaries of my knowledge. These are the issues that I was asked to address:
1. DDoS attacks that rival anything else in the world, taking down any journalist who dares to challenge the government
2. How to use the web to help in investigative reporting
3. How to monetize web content
4. How to grow web audiences in a country where the internet penetration rate is below 20%, and the ad marketing is in its infancy
5. How to use social media to help publicize your web page – or to get the news out when your page is taken down (see #1 above)
6. How to start migrating video content from broadcast to the web
7. What kinds of changes will the future hold for traditional media
8. What skills do journalism students need to build to make themselves employable down the road
…and many more.
I was impressed by the enthusiasm and hope of the students that I met in my last stop – the ancient city of Almaty, nestled in a valley, surrounded by the foothills of the Himalayas. And I was also humbled by the courage being shown by the few remaining opposition journalists.
These people have been hounded from their jobs at newspapers and TV stations. The papers are being shut down – in fact, this morning, a famous journalist is being kept in jail – allegedly for murdering a man in a car accident. But everyone in the country pretty much knows the score.
It’s just that the government no longer really cares what anyone thinks about what they’re doing. They aren’t even making the effort to disguise the fact that they’re eliminating anyone who stands in the way of the runaway kleptocracy.
And that’s a really bad sign.
I will be writing much more about this issue in the weeks to come. I shot some amazing, shocking, heartbreaking videos of journalists begging for help. Our help. Any help.
Coming from the feeling of brotherhood that permeated the Online News Association conference a couple weeks ago, it was hard not to feel personally affronted by what is happening to our digital kin in Kazakhstan.