Ukraine Project

Ukraine project - SCI teams working with New Day publications

By LIZ THOMPSON

Digital Director

Hagerstown Herald-Mail

   Twenty years ago, not long after their country declared independence from the former Soviet Union, a group of journalists in a small city in Ukraine dared to start a media company called New Day.

   Despite an office bombing and with none of the protections media in the United States enjoy, the newspaper company grew and now publishes four weekly newspapers. Today, its chief editors and owners want to focus some of their resources on digital opportunities to grow revenue and readership.

   Coordinated by the non-profit organization IREX, and funded with a grant from the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, SCI employees shared digital expertise and recommendations with the staff of New Day.

    In Ukraine, where the organization has an office in Kiev, IREX oversees training programs for independently owned media outlets – newspaper, radio and television – with training in all aspects of operations.

   Over the course of the coming year, New Day employees will visit SCI companies in the United States going to South Bend (South Bend Tribune/WSBT TV and Radio, and Corporate) in March, and The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown and WDBJ in Roanoke in July. Two other SCI employees will follow Oslund and Thompson’s travels to Ukraine in June.

   Oslund said the experience gives as much to SCI employees as it does to New Day employees.

   “You can’t help but be energized because of an experience like this,” he said. “We came back with as many ideas as we took and we came back with renewed enthusiasm for what we do and the environment in which we do it.”

   Media in Ukraine do not enjoy the same protections that laws in the United States provide for a free press. Ukrainian media representatives are often in court fighting frivolous lawsuits and media throughout the country have faced lawsuits and retribution from politicians over coverage.

   New Day owners – Eugene and Irina Shepitko and Yuri and Irina Yarovyj – took Thompson and Oslund on tours of Kirovograd and to a nearby town where they were serenaded by towns people and school children, treated to lunch with town officials and toured the community’s hospital, cultural center and sports center.

   Thompson and Oslund also toured a former Soviet missile base, now a museum. They were able to go hundreds of feet underground in the missile command silo and see how crews of three lived and worked in the confined space for days at a time.

   “It was an unforgettable experience and I am so happy to have taken part,” Thompson said.

   WDBJ and Herald-Times employees in Bloomington, IN have participated in IREX program in years past, but this was the first visit where the focus was on digital and online strategies.

Left to right are New Day owners Eugene and Irina Shepitko, Liz Thompson, New Day owner Irina Yarovyj, Kerry Osland and New Day owner Yuri Yarovyj