Universities and schools
Latvia does not have a long history of professional education for journalists. During the first half of the 20th century, journalists working for newspapers and the radio learned their skills on the job. A rather large percentage of these people began their careers as schoolteachers. An Institute of Journalism was to be established in Riga in autumn 1940 but the Soviet occupation interrupted those plans. During the Soviet period, journalists were trained by the Latvia State University (beginning in 1945) and by the Communist Party schools. Journalists in the Soviet Union were supposed to serve ideological purposes, too.
Education for journalists changed after the restoration of Latvia’s independence. The five-year higher education model for Soviet universities was transformed into a three-year bachelor’s programme and a two-year master’s programme. New courses were developed. The experience of universities in the United States and Western Europe was studied intensively. Faculty members were replaced and time spent at western universities became very important. The first doctoral programme in communications studies was established in 2006.
Education in media and journalism is offered at seven institutions of higher education, four of them in Riga and three in the regional towns of Valmiera, Rēzekne and Liepāja. Regardless of the fact that, with the beginning of the economic crisis in 2009, Latvian media were forced to reduce both their staff numbers and wages. Media and communication studies have been one of the study programmes in greatest demand for more than ten years. The content at bachelor and master’s level is relatively similar but the colleges also try to offer something more specific. For example, since autumn 2016, the Rēzekne Academy of Technology has Regional Media and Communication as a master’s programme.
Heads of media and editors are often critical of graduates’ readiness to work in media organisations while at the same time these mass media lack the resources to work with trainees and to encourage their growth. The Media Policy Guidelines contain several initiatives for the improvement of education for media professionals including the promotion of a more active dialogue between media professionals and academic organisations.
In 2009 the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga established the Centre for Media Studies to support education and research in the Baltic media. The centre provides further education for journalists in the fields of investigative reporting, business reporting and journalistic ethics.
Another step in the direction of training media professionals came in November 2015 with the founding of the Baltic Centre for Media Excellence. Its activities are aimed at: training and improving the knowledge and skills of journalists and other media specialists and organisations in the Baltic states and Eastern Partnership countries, the exchange of professional ideas between journalists on raising media-related issues, gathering and disseminating information on the media, training possibilities in the Baltic states etc.