Chief Mentor's advice: 'start thinking about projects as of products and not as of ideas'

Nabi Abdullaev, Chief Mentor at the launch seminar of Cross-border journalism programme, Tbilisi, 2018

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Nabi Abdullaev, Chief mentor, Cross-border journalism scheme 

Mentor's notes: 

The 2018 season of Cross-Border Journalism project of Perpektivy Program was remarkable for several reasons.

First, nearly all participants of the 2018 cohort took part in one of the project, that about business lunches in different countries and regions. In it, simple stories about how people take a bite during lunch breaks in the Caucasus, in Central Asia and in Moscow turned into a study of how a global phenomenon of post-industrial era reflects in ethnic cuisines, national cultures, food products and lifestyles. The project was published by a Kazakhstani portal Tengri News (https://tengrinews.kz/article/822/) which reporter Olga Pastukhova coordinated the project from its inception to the day it went public. Six participants of the program contributed their works, from short first-person vignettes to expanded articles with comments from culture scientists and diet specialists, in this colourful multimedia project.

The second large-scale project that was only slightly smaller than the business-lunch saga was about the propensity of the Caucasus peoples to show off. Participants from Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Dagestan researched how rather specific ways that Caucasus inhabitants use to dash their neighbours reflect deeper cultural and social traits inherent to local communities. Working on this project consisting of several colourful funny pieces, I believe, was enjoyed by its participants and all others who participated in discussing it. The full project was published by BBC in Azeri language  (https://www.bbc.com/azeri/region-45950053) and the part about Dagestan was published by Current Time (https://www.currenttime.tv/a/dagestan-fancy-habits/29355213.html).

 

Publication of the largest ever and the most labor-consuming project about the Irtysh river lives of Russians and Kazakhs along its banks became another major result of the season. The project, heavy on video, photo, infographics and text, was published by Takie Dela portal (https://river.takiedela.ru/) and became a news by itself after several Russian and Kazakhstani media reported about it. I will not be surprised if this project led by Tatiana Chekhova and Maya Soerova will get a journalism award this year.

 

The fourth project of the season, a tale of two tine ethnic groups, the Dungans living in the southern Russia and in the Central Asia and the Setos living in northwestern Russia, was nominated for the Redkollegia journalism award in 2018. The project was published by 7x7 portal (https://semnasem.ru/dungane-and-seto/). In my view, this nomination is another reminder that readers’ interest and peer recognition can be earned even by telling a simple, straightforward story with a minimum of multimedia. The most important thing is to have a good story to tell.

 

Speaking of the lessons learned in this season, I want to stress that the most important thing for those wishing to participate in the program is to start thinking about their projects as of products and not as of ideas.

Once again we found ourselves in the situation when already selected participants of the program could present their ideas but could not present a media product. “I want to write about migrants, abortions, ecology, violence, love, good and evil, etc.” - such a broad approach to the project’s topics very often is doomed to fail as a participant is called to answer simple questions of what exactly will he or she write about, for whom and how.

I strongly recommend that candidates preparing their applications start discussing their projects with editors of media outlets where they plan to publish their projects. On one hand, it will facilitate publication because very often participants of the program start looking for a media to publish their projects only after completing their work on them. But what is more important, working with editors will help candidates to start seeing their ideas as articles, to understand how technically execute it and for which audience it should be adapted.

Such understanding will not only make work of the participants and mentors in the program easier but it will also lessen chances that your idea will be declined during initial discussion as unfeasible and you will have to work on someone else’ project. The better your topic is thought through, the clearer is a participant’s vision of how it will be implemented, the more chances his or her project has to see the light of the day.

Call for application for new cross-border season will be open soon.

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