Monday, June 22, 2015

Feds Spend $150K to 'Embed' Russian Journalists in U.S. Newsrooms

     Even as diplomatic relations between the US and Russia remain decidedly chilly over the Ukrainian conflict, the State Department is reaching out to "up-and-coming" Russian journalists. A recent $150,000 grant offering from the US Embassy in Moscow seeks to establish a program to give Russian journalists an "intensive professional exchange experience in American newsrooms," plus "cultural experiences that allow them to learn more about the United States in general."
     Although the program is tentatively named the "Russian Journalist Exchange Program," it involves only the placement of Russian journalists in American newsrooms and not vice versa. Although the State Department wishes to focus on relatively new journalists who are "showing promise" in their careers, grant recipients are reminded that "[e]very effort should be made to attract a large and diverse participant pool, including persons with disabilities, minorities, a balanced mix of male and female participants, etc." Grant recipients will carry out recruitment, but the US Embassy in Moscow reserves the right of final approval of all participants, as well as approval of the US newsrooms where the visiting journalists will be working.
     In addition to being "embedded" for a minimum a two-weeks in "reputable American newsrooms," participants are to be housed with American families to enhance their cultural experiences. While the Russians are expected to "work alongside American reporters" and interact with host families to get "a first-hand view of American family life with all its diversity," the State Department doesn't want the visitors to get too comfortable. Grant recipients are reminded they are not only responsible for arranging an American work, cultural, and family-life experience for the journalists, but also for "ensuring their return to Russia." All participating journalists must "[c]ommit to returning to Russian Federation after completion of the program."
     However, the State Department has plans for a continuing relationship with the Russian journalists who participate in the program. One of the elements required of grant recipients is to "plan for post-program participant engagement that includes an outline of any proposed follow-on activities or initiatives and an articulated plan for utilizing Department of State and other alumni tools and social media outlets to provide continued support to program alumni." [emphasis added] A post-program evaluation is also desired using a now-familiar State Department metric: "The more that outcomes are “SMART” (specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and placed in a reasonable timeframe, the easier it will be to conduct the evaluation."
     Development of the program, recruitment of participants (both Russian journalists and American news organizations), and selection of host families is expected to take until March 2016. The actual exchange experiences are then to take place from March through August 2016.

Note: A version of this post first appeared at The Weekly Standard.

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