Next Step in US-Russian relations: OP Collaborative Coverage & Transparency for Pittsburgh G20

C4FCM Research Assistant and Open Park developer Florence Gallez leads a roundtable discussion with Russia experts on US-Russian relations at the Media Lab July 14 as part of OP’s first case study on collaborative journalism.

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The Kremlin has a brand new website – http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/381825/ – Russians are embracing Facebook and social networks habits – http://www.themoscowtimes.com/business/article/381692/# – and Open Park’s Webcast Roundtable discussion on US-Russian relations following U.S. President Barack Obama’s first visit to Russia in July produced memorable comments and predictions from its panel of Russia experts, kick-starting in the process OP’s first case study in collaborative reporting of ongoing news events, specifically the “Russia story.”

While Russians are embracing Internet technology and civic media practices, the Open Park team has been busy thinking of ways that such “hot” and long-term news interests can be covered in more creative and collaborative ways, drawing in the expertise of the audience into the debate and news analysis.

Live online discussions is just one way that collaborative coverage of today’s news can be put into practice, with video blogs and citizen-made clips now making their way into mainstream news networks’ reports, albeit without much ethical standards or regulation. The lively discussion that took place on July 14 with three local Russia experts from top research institutions and webcast on Open Park’s newly launched website with the possibility for viewers to post their comments and questions via Twitter proved just that, by giving a glimpse of the endless possibilities for covering a theme in a group setting while making the most of Web social services. It also practiced the Open Park philosophy of ethical journalism by giving a voice to all views equally and adopting a non-censorship policy – the only way towards open, transparent news-reporting.

On that day, Tatyana Yankelevich, daughter of Yelena Bonner and director of the Sakharov Program on Human Rights at Harvard’s Davis Center, Sergei Konoplyov, director of the US-Russia Security Program at the Harvard Kennedy School, and Marina Khazanov, Russian language lecturer at Boston University gathered in the Media Lab’s Wiesner Room at 11 am to give their reactions to Obama’s meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, their views on Russia’s democratic path under its new presidency, predictions for the future of relations between the two countries, and advice on the best course for US Russia policy.

For two hours they debated on issues and the latest developments in such areas as politics, economics, legislation, trade, defense, nuclear disarmament, democracy and human rights, the media and the Internet. Even though there was strong disagreement among the three participants, especially on the question of whether Obama’s new Russia policy is “too soft,” they all applied tolerance and civility towards each others’ views, allowing the conversation to flow smoothly, democratically.

The full discussion can be viewed at the following link in the US-Russian Relations box on Open Park’s newly launched Web site – http://openpark.media.mit.edu/ or directly at http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=6007539&server=vimeo.com&show_tit

And as I twittered later, the discussion, and the case study it introduced, have only started and now welcome contributors to cover the next step in the US-Russian relations media coverage: the upcoming meeting of Obama and Medvedev on this side of the pond.

Indeed, all eyes are now on the G20 Summit to take place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 24-25, the second this year after the G20 meeting in London in April. With Vladimir Putin still the one pulling the strings in the country’s governance, and possibly engineering a comeback, Russia is still very much an ongoing story of news interest and one in much need of balanced and transparent media coverage, especially in the current climate of increase government control on all sides.

The elimination of possible dissent and draconian security measures by city authorities in preparation of the G20, as reported by The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Aug 28 – http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09240/993803-482.stm – which include the shutdown of schools, businesses, roads and public transport, led some G20 critics to call for “more openness from the federal government about its security plans,” – a sign that transparency is in scare supply on the U.S side too.

With Open Park’s ethical standards in mind, which will be established later this academic year in a Code of Ethics for collaborative journalism, we will continue covering this story with journalists, freelancers, concerned citizens and students who can do their part by promoting a more open and accurate type of news-reporting than the ‘infotainment’ we are usually fed by the mass media. One simple way of doing this is by sharing knowledge and news-reporting resources with partner reporters and editors in other US states, in the collaborative, non-competitive spirit of the OP practice.

The US-Russia July Summit Roundtable and its accompanying online discussion is where it all started and will continue for the rest of 2009 and beyond. Feel free to participate and have your say by posting your thoughts in the blog and forum of its page – http://openpark.media.mit.edu/content/the-russian-diaspora-us-russia-jul… – and to follow OP developments and influence them on Twitter at ‘openpark’ and on Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Open-Park/94314302361?ref=mf

At present, the US-Russia case study is also ready to be used as an educational online tool in schools and colleges, in classes that teach journalism, foreign reporting and news-reporting skills, but also as a practice ground for any students and teaching faculty interested in politics, democracy and international relations, among related disciplines. The US-Russia page and its main themes can be adapted and built upon to suit their academic or research needs, using the media tools in http://openpark.media.mit.edu/tools – or by developing their own.

We will be developing the Tools page in the coming weeks, so as to continue the coverage of this crucial story.
See you soon in OP’s virtual Pittsburgh pages!