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Operation “Workshop in Almaty”

Written by on Monday, 11 November 2013
Culture and History, Kazakhstan
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Last week, Sanjar and I gave a three-day workshop at Ablai Khan University (a.k.a., the Kazakh University of International Relations and World Languages named after Kazakh Ablai Khan, Абылай хан атындағы Қазақ Халықаралық Қатынастар және Әлем Тілдері Университеті). (We will soon begin publishing works by the best students here on NewEurasia.)

This was the second of three workshops, the first of which was conducted in Tajikistan this past summer. Its purpose was to introduce young journalism students to the standards of Anglophonic journalism, particularly the notion of the “inverted pyramid”.

The first day of the workshop

The workshop was structured into three days. Day 1 was theoretical, and entailed a long PowerPoint presentation about journalism, both theoretical points and practical issues. As part of Day 1, the students learned the “art of the pitch”, and as their homework assignment, they had to e-mail Sanjar and I a pitch for a piece (news report, magazine article, photo-essay, etc.) concerning arts and culture which they would then endeavor to do on Day 2. Out of 41 students, 14 submitted pitches, and of these, five were selected for the next day (but all were graded).

 Chris Schwartz

At the end of Day 2, the students submitted their pieces in the early evening, which Sanjar and I then reviewed, graded, and edited through the night and into the next morning. Day 3 entailed a special discussion session with another group of students from the university, and then we sat down with our five selectees and went over their submissions. At the end, we then provided them with our proverbial “rolodex” of editorial contacts, including concrete tips about how to reach out to these contacts, what kinds of stories they would be interested in, etc.


The design of the workshop was primarily Sanjar’s with some input from me; he had successfully test-ran it in Tajikistan, and refined it for Kazakhstan. Fourteen submissions out of 41 attendees is actually not a bad amount (34%), and I should note that there were several students who refrained from submitting a pitch but requested a copy of the PowerPoint. Indeed, a big part of Ablai Khan University’s interest in the workshop was simply to expose a substantial amount of their communications and humanities students to new information, since (quite naturally) they already had a pretty good idea as to who would really be interested in the practical exercises, and hence who would really be interested in pursuing a career in journalism per se (i.e., the 14 who actually made pitches to us).

Our 5 best students with certificates!

Personally, I was satisfied with the end results, particularly the sit-down with the selectees on Day 3. That was the moment when we could really feel the possible beginnings of five journalism careers, hopefully jump-started with some practical mentoring, the kind of help that a lot cub reporters unfortunately don’t get.

Photographs and captions by Sanjar Rakhmatov

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