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Radio Gotham: The Andijan Massacre, One Year Later

On May 13, 2005, government soldiers in Uzbekistan shot hundreds of demonstrators in the main square of the city of Andijan. Galima Bukharbaeva, a student at the Graduate School of Journalism, was an eyewitness to the massacre and gave her dramatic first-hand account in a radio documentary that was quoted in the June 22 edition of the New York Times.

Bukharbaeva's documentary contained exclusive on-scene recordings from the city's central square where thousands of protesters were fired on with automatic weapons by government soldiers (Listeners should note the highly graphic nature of the audiotape and transcript). She was one of only five reporters covering the events that led to the shootings, in which, according to human rights organizations, as many as 600 people were killed.

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Radio classes broadcast their work on magazine-style news Web casts. Masters projects for radio are Web cast during special programs that showcase these long-form documentaries.

A native of Uzbekistan, Bukharbaeva created the 10-minute report as part of a workshop in the radio broadcasting concentration at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. It was broadcast in the weekly Radio Gotham Web cast program produced by the class.

Radio instruction at the school emphasizes writing and reporting in-depth, long-form reports, including news analysis and documentary styles. Students learn formats heard on the best commercial and public network broadcasts, in particular National Public Radio (NPR) news programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Advanced courses stress on-air production and hosting skills.

The radio curriculum is designed to strengthen students' overall journalistic training, not only in preparation for a possible radio career but also to develop descriptive and narrative writing techniques for print or television. Editing and mixing is done on state-of-the art digital audio workstations.

The radio concentration is directed by Professor John Dinges, former managing editor of NPR News. All classes are taught by professors and adjuncts with distinguished track records at public and commercial networks, including Alex Blumberg (This American Life); Rick Karr, NPR independent producer; Julianne Welby (WFUV-FM); Kerry Donahue (Audible.com, independent producer); Barbara Giudice (Radio France International); and independent producer Tony Dec.

"Radio, especially on the NPR network, is the new outlet for high-quality reporting," Dinges said. "Documentaries like Galima's detailed report on Andijan use sound and factual narratives to create a compelling audio picture that places listeners on the scene and allows them to experience the events. The number of students seeking advanced training in radio has been growing since we began teaching long-form documentary techniques in 1996. I believe we now have the largest radio journalism program in the U.S."

Bukharbaeva received the International Press Freedom award in November 2005 from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Published: Jun 26, 2006
Last modified: Jun 26, 2006