One camera, one tripod, a microphone, a laptop, and one small room in a high school … Yekaterinburg’s youth television studio Iceberg TV seems to have a simple recipe for success, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The real secret ingredients that make Iceberg TV so successful are the passion of the young TV journalists and the enthusiasm of studio-coordinator Alyona Chekhomova. Through their combined efforts, the students of Iceberg TV are to become the first Russia-side anchors of Disabilities Partnership TV (DPTV), a new online-based student media project developed by the US-Russia Social Expertise Exchange (SEE). Modeled after see’s highly successful Youth TV Bridge project, DPTV brings competitively chosen US and Russian high school students – like those at Iceberg TV – together to jointly produce a season of news magazine-style broadcasts about disability-related topics.
Iceberg TV was founded in 2012 by a charitable foundation in the Ural region, aiming to create a space for Yekaterinburg’s youth to sharpen their journalistic skills in a scholastic setting. At that point, there were only six students using the studio, trying themselves out as anchors, reporters, and editors. Now, Iceberg TV has more than 30 people working on its programs.
The young journalists are immersed in the happenings of Yekaterinburg, never falling behind from their older, professional peers. They illuminate the most interesting events of the fourth largest city in Russia, the capital city of the Ural region. The students often focus on social themes, in particular since Kseniya Kaminskaya joined the team several years ago.
Only 18 years old, Kseniya has already won several prestigious awards for her work in youth television journalism. She has travelled extensively around Russia and world, working towards her goal of becoming a journalist. Kseniya achieves all of this and leads an active lifestyle while using a wheelchair. Kseniya initially came to Iceberg TV after appearing in one of the studio’s features, joining the studio as a correspondent. With the support of Iceberg TV coordinator Alyona Chekhomova, Kseniya developed her own project entitled the “Social Reporter” on Iceberg TV, which shines light on questions relating to and problems facing people with disabilities.
“Initially, I was producing news segments but later understood that I was most interested in this subject matter, because I have many friends and acquaintances with disabilities whose stories I want to tell” says Kseniya. “Mass media platforms are great tools for changing public opinion about people with disabilities. It’s important to show that we are like everyone else, we just want to live, keep ourselves busy, have friends, and so on.”
The students at Iceberg TV produce a variety of content, covering issues from accessibility to volunteerism. Their production can be found on various online platforms, and is screened at a variety of youth media festivals. The Iceberg TV teams strongly believes that showcasing social issues in their production offers colossal teaching potential for students who do not often have the opportunity to interact with students with different abilities.
“One of the problems [common to the US and Russia] is that many children do not know how to befriend children with disabilities – they are afraid, even” says Ksenia’s mother Tatiana Kaminskaya. “For example, during a festival we were showing one of Ksenia’s first productions about a blind girl. She plays on the piano, sings, skis, ice-skates, and swims in the pool. When we showed this film, everyone in the screening hall froze. They were surprised that a blind person was capable of doing so much. Children react well to these sorts of things. If we show this sort of footage more often, then the barriers to interaction will gradually break down.”
To pursue this theme on a new international level, the team at Iceberg TV decided to try to join SEE’s Disability Partnership TV. This new SEE project is focused on spotlighting disability-related topics in the US and Russia. To find a suitable anchor team for DPTV, SEE was hosting the “45 Seconds to the USA” video contest. See was calling on Russian high school video production teams to submit 45-second-long videos making their case for becoming the anchors.
The team learned about the contest while attending the Volga Encounters youth media festival in Cheboksary. The team had already tried to join SEE’s youth media projects twice before when they submitted 30 second entry to prior video competitions. Figuring that the third time’s the charm, they pitched their video once more – and won!
As the winners, the Iceberg TV team has become the co-host of the DPTV program that they will co-produce with their American counterparts from Hempfield Highs School in Landysville, Pennsylvania. Additionally, they will travel to the United States to learn about how disability-related issues are approached in the US.
According to Alyona Chekhomova, all of the participants know exactly what they want from their participation in the journey to the US – the experience that they will be able to share with their colleagues in Yekaterinburg is of immeasurable value. The team from Iceberg TV is currently actively preparing for their journey to the US, learning English and impatiently waiting for the new season to begin. There is an exciting year ahead, and the Iceberg TV team is ready to dive into a sea of new ideas.