Resident Adviser Tim O’Connor has overall responsibility for ProMedia II program design andimplementation in Ukraine. O’Connor has headed the IREX ProMedia program in Ukraine since April 1997. From 1994 - 1996 he was teaching in Kazakhstan as a US Peace Corps volunteer, and prior to that he was for 10 years a reporter and editor for The Kansas City Star and Times. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has completed most of the coursework for a Master of Public Administration degree.
O’Connor has covered a wide variety of news and feature stories since he sold his first newspaper article at the age of 15, while still a junior high school student. He has written for suburban and small-town weekly papers, small- and large-city daily newspapers, local and national newspapers, and magazines. He has written news, features, sports, business and op-ed articles, and also has had dozens of news and feature photographs published in newspapers. He has reported stories from locations worldwide, including not only many parts of the United States, but Canada, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, France, Belgium, Northern Ireland, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.
As a staff reporter for The Kansas City Star and Times, he spent five years writing about education. He wrote not just about the broad political and legal issues embroiling an urban school system but about the schools themselves, the students and teachers and classes – topics important in the everyday lives of the newspaper’s readers. In Ukraine, this is exactly the type of reporting that ProMedia is attempting to teach to journalists. He also wrote about other events as diverse as the Bosnian war to rock concerts and local parades. As an editor, he was responsible for all aspects of the paper’s weekly travel section, and worked for a year as a copy editor for news sections of the paper.
O’Connor has lived and worked in the former Soviet Union for most of the past five years. From 1994 to 1996, as a Peace Corps volunteer, he taught English to primary- and secondary-school pupils in Zhambyl, Kazakhstan. During that period, he traveled widely in the five Central Asian republics of the ex-USSR. In keeping with the goals and traditions of the Peace Corps, he lived, worked, and traveled as the local citizens did, not on the elevated financial and comfort levels of an expatriate. He also learned to speak and read Russian.
In Ukraine, O’Connor has broadened the reach of the ProMedia program. Under his leadership, a new Information and Press Center in Simferopol was opened and staffed in September 1997, thus making the resources and programs of ProMedia available to the journalists of Crimea. The hours of operation of the Kyiv press center were expanded, as were the computer facilities and other resources available to journalists researching articles.
In 1998, O’Connor submitted a grant proposal to ARD/Checchi that resulted in a $100,000 grant to IREX ProMedia/Ukraine to expand its legal defense and education program. This program has offered legal training and advice to newspapers from across Ukraine, as well as providing legal defense to newspapers against whom lawsuits are being used as a means of harassment. He also has brought many new newspapers into the circle of those receiving assistance from ProMedia, including dozens of newspapers in smaller towns, where the local newspaper is the only one available, and has expanded the number and type of assistance activities offered by ProMedia.
During O’Connor’s tenure, IREX ProMedia has begun several new initiatives, including:
In the past two years, IREX ProMedia/Ukraine has developed strong ties with other media assistance organizations, including Internews, BBC World Service Training, European Institute for the Media and the Institute for Mass Information. In addition, IREX ProMedia serves as the local organizer in Ukraine for assistance programs of the World Association of Newspapers, as well as for programs funded by the Swedish International Development Agency and operated by Sweden’s Institute for the Further Education of Journalists. In all, cooperation with these organizations has added more than $200,000 to the programs ProMedia has offered in Ukraine.
IREX ProMedia/Ukraine also has developed and maintained relationships with several high-quality newspapers in eastern and central Europe, including Poland’s Gazeta Wyborcza, Latvia’s Diena and Lauku Avize, and the Czech Republic’s Mlada Fronta Dnes. ProMedia has sent Ukrainians to visit and learn from these newspapers, and has recruited professionals from those papers for training programs in Ukraine.
ProMedia also works with numerous trainers, many from eastern and central Europe, who have been able to impart new and valuable ideas and techniques to journalists and newspaper managers in Ukraine. Those trainers – all fluent in Ukrainian or Russian – include Katarzyna Montgomery, Olga Iwaniak and Edward Krzemien of Poland; Inese Voika and Aigars Stankevics of Latvia; Tatiana Repkova of Slovakia; Stefan Voss and Joachim Weidemann of Germany; and David Tuller and Christine Demkowych of the United States. These Western trainers not only speak Ukrainian or Russian but also have extensive work experience in Ukraine or other CEE/NIS countries.
Office Director Gennadiy Potchtar works closely with the resident adviser on project implementation. He serves as a primary liaison to the Ukrainian independent media community and handles daily office administration.
Potchtar began work for ProMedia in October of 1996, when ProMedia acquired the then-Internews managed media library known as the Information and Press Center (IPC) in Kyiv. A computer programmer by profession, Potchtar became involved with media in 1994 as the computer program coordinator for both the Internews International Media Center (IMC) and the IPC. Potchtar developed Ukraine’s first information database of periodicals, which now provides electronic access to over 750,000 articles from Ukrainian newspapers and wire services.
Potchtar became head of the IPC educational program in 1995, training hundreds of journalists on how to use computer resources and the Internet for investigative reporting. He organized workshops for Ukrainian journalists and established relations with many schools of journalism and media entities all over Ukraine. Also in 1995, IMC Internews began broadcasting their TV news program "Vikna." Potchtar was in charge of gathering and processing information from news agencies, equipping the newsroom with computers, and teaching reporters. He was also doing research for news stories.
In April of 1997 IREX named Potchtar to become IPC’s director, and under his direction the Center has expanded and greatly diversified its activity. It serves not only as an information resource for journalists in Ukraine, but also as a training and legal defense center. During the last three years, the IPC has grown from a tiny press center with a staff of three to become the largest non-government press information center in Ukraine, including a second branch office in Crimea.
Since 1997 Potchtar has been responsible for publishing the Media Law Bulletin, which monitors press freedom violations. In 1997 he presented its findings at the European Commission Monitoring Seminar in Budapest. Working with ABA/CEELI, he helped create the Media Lawyers Association and has carried out workshops and study tours that have brought journalists and lawyers together.
Working with the ProMedia resident adviser, Potchtar has developed and organized training programs for journalists, managers and other newspaper staffers. He also develops and maintains contacts with Ukrainian and international training organizations, governmental and nongovermental organizations, and journalists and media outlets throughout Ukraine. Potchtar has worked on numerous occasions as a NGO and media expert for Eurasia and Soros Foundations.
Potchtar earned a post graduate degree in computer design/electrical systems from Kyiv Technical University, a graduate degree in mathematics from Kyiv State University, and a diploma in electrical engineering, also from Kyiv Technical University. He is a native Ukrainian and Russian speaker, fluent in English and fair in German.