When I was about to terminate my fellowship with Atlas Corps, which by the way turned out to be very challenging, both professionally and personally, me and my fellow fellows from Albania were told to think about a Community Action Project, which would take place upon our return in our home countries.
I decided to share my insight from the Atlas Corps fellowship and my living in Washington, DC, with the next generation of journalists. The young professional and students. I like mostly to talk to people who are more able and possible to choose the right direction when it comes to making decent journalism. I think that “old” (not that gold) journalists have already taken a permanent shape and it is difficult to intervene in their personality and their approach toward the quality journalism.
So, I decided my Community Action Project to be dedicated to young journalists, students. I called this project “The US (ad)venture”, because it really was for real both an adventure and a venture, which I can say, no matter the high and lows, it really paid me back. I learnt a lot at the Voice of America, where I was assigned from the program, but I learnt twice as much from simply living in DC, hanging with fellows, meeting all kind of people in a very dynamic and fluid place.
During my workshops and seminars with young journalists and journalism students, some of them part of the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism, an organisation supported by the US Embassy in Tirana, I was happy to notice that this new generation of journalists is equipped better than my generation, both in terms of opportunities, materials and possibilities, but also in personality and the way they think.They are journalists shaped in an era where the information has exploded, especially from the internet and social media. Though this comes with the risk of being a victim of “fake news” and also of abuse, still if taken properly under control, this can be indeed an advantage. And I saw it was.
As I was expecting, I learnt a lot from the students I was supposed to teach something to, and I love it when something turns out to be interactive and both sides give and take in the same amount. And this was the case with my Community Action Project.
Journalism students and young journalists in Albania are especially eager to know stuff when it is about US. US journalism and media making has always been an attraction to media makers in Albania. What I shared with them, was the idea that basically laws and regulations are fundamental for the development of media and journalism. Many things we see happen in this field in US are directly and undeniably “consequences” of the First Amendment. The First Amendment is so powerful that even racist people can hide behind it and organize rallies like that in Virginia a year ago. Of course, this might be counted as a dark side of the First Amendment, but it also make people who see US from outside to better understand the dynamic of the free speech, as one of the most powerful columns that has influenced the past and the present of this country and that will of course affect its future.
Of course I talked a lot about my experience at Voice of America with journalism students. What fascinated me mostly from this media agency is its formula itself. No matter how good or bad that media making can be considered (most think VOA is very qualitative), at the end VOA formula is such a formula that provides exclusive content all the time. From exclusive Boko Haram featuring to the exclusive featuring of the assault of Erdogan at the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC. These images were later purchased from giants of media making, such as CNN, BBC and so on. It is the way VOA is conceived and works that make it own time to time exclusive content.
I shared lots of insights with the journalism students and young active journalists. And their feedback was amazing. I encountered only one difficulty: Future is made of dreams. And there were something bothering in these talented people’s future. The vast majority of them have projected a future abroad, not in Albania. And this is sad, because though they were interested to hear my experiences, they were not quiet there a hundred percent. Truth is, it is difficult to inspire a next generation, when this next generations’ thoughts are to simply leave the country for good. This made me sad and also the whole project was affected, because I would rather like to talk my ideas to people who are planing to stay in Albania and build it. So, in a way, my “US (ad)venture” was also an “Albanian misadventure”!