A revolution in journalism is possible


Sonya Machorska

   A conference of the Association of European Journalists - Bulgaria has gathered today leading media innovators from the region, Ivan Radev said. Participants in the International Conference "(R) Evolution in Journalism. Media Innovation in Central and Eastern Europe "united around the idea that a business model of in-depth journalism for the benefit of society is fully possible. A model that depends on each one of us. We all use media and we can contribute to the existence of ones that protect our interests as a society.

   For some time now, the notorious Balkan pessimism seems to have infected the entire world journalistic guild. There is no media conference without a collective complaint and even mumbling about the future of the media. But there is a group of media innovators who do not see the Internet as a threat but as an advantage, said Boryana Djambazova from AEJ-Bulgaria. She added that foreign lecturers at the conference are doing their best to make independent and quality journalism. Not in the United States or even in Western Europe, but in countries such as Serbia, Romania, Poland, Slovakia and Georgia, where fellow journalists are confronted with similar problems that the media have in Bulgaria.

     To confirm her words about the similarity of the problems, Tomáš Bella from Slovakia reported that one morning the newspaper, in which he and his colleagues worked, had become aware of a local oligarch bought by him. The journalists did not want to continue working for this guy and left the editorial office, photographing the empty newsroom and publishing the picture on the front page. They then founded a new newspaper, half of which is the property of journalists, and the rest of it to investors, but they are selected very carefully. Dennik N is supported by donations from readers, and the team has noticed a search for longer shapes and more in-depth materials that lead to more subscriptions.

  Only donations from readers rely on the Bulgarian online media Testo.bg. For its short existence, the media has accumulated 51,000 readers, and it would be enough just 4% of them to donate 5 leva per month to support the site and the authors get enough for their work, said Anne Pham, one of its creators. So far, this has not happened and the funds collected are considerably less, but Totest.bg continues to exist because of the credibility of its creators and the fact that many of the authors give up their fees.

   In addition to donations, media users can also contribute in other ways. Jakub Gornitzki of the Polish Outriders Network said they relied on their readers for refining the products they create. If you are waiting to create the perfect product, you are already late, he said. According to him, the consumer community can seriously contribute to the development of a product.

   Another significant contribution of the community to readers is the protection of journalists when they are subjected to repression for their own investigations. Jelena Vasic from the KRIK portal in Serbia told how the media editing was tapped, and the housing of an investigative journalist shattered as a warning after high-level corruption, and that in such cases of attacks, they rely on mobilization and protection on the part of society. Vasic has reported that one of the first materials that has brought KRIK popularity is an investigation into Belgrade's former mayor and current finance minister, Sinisa Mali, who is proving to have bought 24 apartments on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. This material has caused a great deal of resonance and then journalists have realized that they should follow the needs of the audience.

   Vlad Ursulian said that such repression is no exception in Romania. His colleagues, for example, were threatened with a fine under the GDPR for investigation, revealing how politicians have bought luxury villas with public funds. Ursulian is the representative of the Journalist's House in Bucharest - a space where journalists not only work, but some of them also live. It is created because, due to the contraction of the market, many journalists lose their jobs and remain literally on the street.

   Interesting is the business model of the Plovdiv news site "Pod tepeto". Its creators Ivaylo Dernev and Dimitar Semkov have told how craft beer and its accompanying culture can help an independent media. About half of the cost of media maintenance comes from additional business activities such as a beer bar or a guest house. The remaining 50% is provided by a grant from the America for Bulgaria Foundation.

   Nancy Shiller, president of the Foundation, which also supports AEG-Bulgaria, said that over the course of its existence America for Bulgaria has invested more than $ 31 million in the development of civil society in Bulgaria, of which $ 11 million in media programs .

   For his part, Daniel Kadik, a representative of the German foundation Friedrich Naumann, pointed out that during the six years in which he was in Bulgaria, he noticed a deterioration of the media environment, but he still has positive signs, such events and people, who have gathered in the hall.