Atlanta, Twenty Years Later

April 21, 2016

I first visited this Southern U.S. city twenty years ago, in 1996, to attend the famous XXVI Summer Olympics. These Summer Olympic games marked the 100th anniversary of the modern Olympic movement and I was fortunate enough to be working as a member of the Channel One Russia crew (ORT at the time). Awe and inspiration are my prime memories of that time.

It is now 2016 and once again I found myself in Atlanta, Georgia. This time, I was attending the 13th annual Student Television Network (STN) convention. Nearly three thousand students and teachers with a shared enthusiasm for student television gathered together from all over the U.S. Awed and inspired by so much fantastic human energy concentrated in one place, I experienced a feeling of déjà vu. I was constantly surprised and inspired by the young adults of different skin color, from families with completely different financial backgrounds, from large cities and small towns, who were equally proud to represent their schools.

Student Television Network convention (March 9-13, 2016)

However, the most unusual element of this all-American event was our presence, since it was the participation of the Russian delegation that turned the convention into an international event. Eurasia Foundation (EF), within the framework of the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE) program, found an opportunity to bring a group of Russian student-television enthusiasts to the STN convention. The group included: six high school students from Karelia, a region of northwest Russian that borders Finland; Evgenii Sukhovei from the Chuvash Republic, who organizes a student television festival in Russia entitled the Volga Encounters; Renat Subeev, a student journalist from Samara; and Aleksandr Iankovskii and myself from Moscow. We felt like Russia’s “civilian ambassadors,” and were very proud to play this role. Our meetings were very friendly, despite the fact that some students from the more rural areas of the US had never met a foreigner before.

The central event of the STN convention was a short video contest organized by EF. As part of EF’s new strategic initiative in student television, the winners of the contest will travel in early May to Cheboksary, Russia to attend Volga Encounters youth media festival. The festival’s American delegation will include not only the winning students, but also STN’s CEO Nancy Held Loucas, STN’s president Jacki Romey, and Angelo Lioudakis, the Chief Enrollment Management Officer of Columbia College Hollywood.

The few days in Atlanta went by surprisingly fast and were very useful. Hundreds of film crews received their daily assignments in the morning and disappeared in the city center to shoot short films and even stage commercials on assigned topics. These assignments had a very tight timeframe. In just a day the students were required to not only to film but also to edit a short video. In every corner of the Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott—the three massive hotels interconnected by a sky-bridge—small groups of students were filming or editing videos. Meanwhile, in the enormous conference hall of the Marriott, one could witness an amazing and impressive sight—more than a thousand people, each with a personal laptop, simultaneously working on an editing assignment.

The primary purpose of my trip to Atlanta was not only to get acquainted with STN, but even more so to brainstorm ideas for a joint educational project between an American institution and the Humanities Institute of Television and Radio Broadcasting, where I am the rector and president . I’m excited to work with our partner from California-Columbia College Hollywood, a well-known and respected institution in the media industry with over 60 years of experience-on a joint online training program for high school students who want to enhance their television and broadcasting skills

Upon my return home, I have cultivated a dream. In twenty years—my golden years—I would like to return to this sunny town once again for some new fantastic event and once again experience awe and inspiration.

Yurii Litovchin is the Rector of the Humanities Institute of Television & Radio Broadcasting in Moscow, named after his father and the university’s founder, M.A. Litovchin. He has also served as the Producer and Director of the sport program ORT on Channel 1 and as Director at Planeta advertising agency. He earned a PhD at the Moscow State Art and Cultural University. He has extensive experience and recognition in his field, serving as a member of the European Film Academy and the International Academy of Television and Radio. In his free time, he likes to work with digital technology.