Perspectives in Journalism

September 24, 2008

The Kyrgystan initiative: A work in progress

Filed under: Education,Journalism — willnortonjr @ 4:14 pm
Tags: , , , ,


Bishkek is laid out on a grid, with wide, tree-lined streets. It has parks and many orchards, and permanently snow-capped mountains are visible to the south.

Bishkek is laid out on a grid with wide, tree-lined streets. It has parks and many orchards, and permanently snow-capped mountains are visible to the south.

Monday, Sept. 22: We arrived in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on Monday morning.

It took us an hour to get our visas, go through passport control and pick up checked luggage.  We were met by university president Ellen Hurwitz’s driver, and we arrived at her house about 3 a.m.

We woke up at 11 a.m. and had a quick breakfast before heading to our first meeting at 2 p.m. on the campus of American University – Central Asia. We met to discuss the university’s planned media center with President Hurwitz and the university’s vice president for academic affairs.

The funds that had been provided for the media center at the university were designated for undergraduate education, but we had suggested they also be used for mid-career education for working journalists.

President Hurwitz asked us why we had suggested that professionals should have access to the funding. Kaare Melhus, director of international studies at the Gimlekollen School of Journalism and Communication in Norway, explained that AUCA faculty had suggested the idea when we had talked with them last year.

Kyrgystan is located in central Asia.

Kyrgystan is located in central Asia.

We said we thought undergraduate education was the priority for the media center but that it also would be worthwhile for professional groups to have access to its facilities.

When our meeting ended, we met John Couper, assistant professor of public relations, who gave us a quick summary of what he expected to happen during a meeting the next day.

Tuesday, Sept. 23: At 10 a.m. we met with leaders of several NGOs and with the publisher of the Times of Central Asia. Those at the meeting were enthusiastic about including mid-career education but warned about the complexities of working with a variety of professional groups from various nations.

After lunch we met with four journalists and the chair of the Department of Journalism. They told us of their expectations for a potential media center, but they were skeptical that such a center would be successful. They were insightful and critical in their comments.

After a long discussion, we thanked them for their candor and detailed analysis and said we would try to use their comments to modify the plan so that it would be successful.

Kyrgystan's population is 5.3 million.


We went to dinner with president Hurwitz and the vice president and repeated our view that the media center should primarily serve undergraduate students.  We said we thought one or two mid-career workshops would be helpful during the first year, but we cautioned that undergraduate education should be the center’s first emphasis even though a coordinated systematic effort of mid-career education for professionals is badly needed.



  1. Thanks for doing this Dean Norton!
    I think it’s really interesting and allows students to see what you’re up to!
    Hope you have a wonderful and safe trip.
    Lauren Garcia
    CoJMC ASUN Rep.

    Comment by Lauren Garcia — September 25, 2008 @ 7:47 pm

  2. It’s great to hear about your experiences through your blogs. I’ve found mine to be quite a discussion maker. I bet yours will do the same.

    Comment by Brian Blackwell — September 27, 2008 @ 11:06 pm

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