Press Sessions - Kyrgyz Stock Exchange Press Club

3rd Place Winner, 2011 CIPE Leading Practices Contest:

The problem:
Economic information is not clearly perceived and understood by the media in the CIS states, including the Kyrgyz Republic. Journalists lack adequate knowledge to understand and interpret economic information and news. On the other hand, presentation of economic information is really complicated and one needs special knowledge to put two and two together. So, mistakes often occur in published economic news, which are not infrequently incorrectly interpreted. It means that presentation of economic information by the media needs new forms and should not be restricted to traditional press conferences and briefings.
The practice:
As a rule, journalists receive information on economic subjects during press conferences and briefings. These are usually brief events which do not enable a journalist to get an adequate understanding of complicated economic information. In this case it is important to take into account that Kyrgyzstan’s journalists are not provided any economic knowledge either at school, in families, or higher educational establishments. In most cases, editors are unable to adequately edit economic news. Moreover, editors are not willing to permit their journalists to attend workshops during their working hours, because a training event, as such, is not a piece of news. A journalist will spend his/her working hours training and fail to do his/her job, i.e. provide the required material. It does not pay for a journalist to attend training either, as his/her remuneration is, to a great extent, a fee paid for published materials. On the other hand, journalists often cover economic news while being ignorant of what they write about, because they fail to understand the context. ”Press-sessions,” started in 2007, are an innovative technique which includes both educational and informational components.
Why and how the Kyrgyz Stock Exchange Press Club developed this practice:
The major mission of the press club is to develop economic journalism. When covering economic topics it acts as a partner of numerous organizations: the Government, companies, and donor organizations, who apply to the press club with a request to arrange specific economic issue coverage by holding press-sessions.
The press club has been keeping constant liaison with all writing journalists, specializing in economic topics in Bishkek and other regions of the country. The press club database includes about 60 such journalists. To organize different events we send letters by e-mail, communicate by telephone, and place announcements on the website.
The organization has five full time officers on the staff and two experts engaged on a permanent basis. The press club supreme managerial body is the Supervisory Board.
Steps and tips for implementing the practice:
The “press-session” technique is the methodology of the press club team. It is a regularly held event having two major goals and including two interrelated parts. The first part is of an educational nature and its goal is to provide knowledge to journalists on a specific aspect of some economic topic. The topic of the first part depends on the newsbreak – event, problem, achievement – put forward for discussion in the second part of a press session. The first educational part covers the main terminology, international and local practices, and includes a short background. It is provided in a tabloid form.
The second informational part of a press session is, in most cases, conducted by press session guests, persons who directly influence the process, decision makers, newsmakers, and people whom journalists may quote as official representatives.


Results of the practice and applications:
The press club has conducted dozens of press-sessions on various economic topics. Press-sessions are effective when it is necessary to explain to the press complicated events in the finance or stock market. For example, after the 2010 revolution, the new Government announced nationalization of some properties owned by Bakiev, former President. Journalists found it difficult to make sense of how nationalization could be held and how it would influence the market and investments, etc. Press-sessions helped journalists to cover these topics in an objective and critical manner.
This form of work is, in fact, an institute of an on-going qualification improvement of writing journalists with regard to the issues of covering economic information. However, unlike “purely” educational events – workshops and training – journalists are much more willing to attend press-sessions as they are aware of the fact that at these press-sessions they will both gain some knowledge and a newsbreak to be used when writing an article or information, and shooting a piece. In this way they will do their job and report to their editors with regard to the time they spent to attend the press-session. For example, a standard press-session on economic issues, unrelated to any scandal, is usually attended by 10-15 journalists. Our press-sessions are usually attended by up to 40 people. They have won recognition and are used by other organizations, in particular, the International Finance Corporation, KR State Registry, donor projects, and public organizations.
Lessons from the experience:
When preparing a press-session it is important to find an expert who is able to explain to journalists the main notions and mechanisms of a topic in a simple and concise manner. It is desirable to find an independent expert who does not represent any of the parties to a problem. The educational part should voice various opinions on the issue and present hypotheses. There may be more than one expert, provided they represent different positions. There may also be more than one newsmaker if they present different aspects of a problem/issue. It is important to prepare brief talking points in the written form and translate them into the Kyrgyz language or other languages used by journalists.
A moderator conducts the press session. He/she is, as a rule, the press club president. After the first educational part, it is important to make certain that the journalists understood the subject of the discussion. An experienced moderator may get this from questions asked by the journalists to the expert. If one notices there remain some unclear topics important to the newsmaker’s talk to follow, they should be tackled again. The duration of a press session is, as a rule, from 70 to 80 minutes with 20 minutes for the educational part, 15 minutes for questions, 20 minutes for the newsmaker’s speech, 15 minutes for follow-up questions, and ending with a coffee break. Such events have proved to be much more effective than traditional press conferences, as they have been followed by more materials of a higher quality. It is important that even a beginner journalist is able to prepare a good material after a press-session.
This practice may be successfully applied in other post-soviet countries where economic information presentation and interpretation is a challenge for mass media, journalists and editors.

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