Greek media gets kiss of life amidst crisis

Greek media gets kiss of life amidst crisis

At a first glance it would seem like a paradox. A country in a deep recession for the fifth year, a society which has been experiencing its most severe collapse in living standards, with an economy under a merciless monitoring process structured by foreign creditors, a public which has exhausted itself in street protests and continues to mistrust its political leaders. A public which does not trust the media and has no money to spare, about to go through a tough winter strapped under another impossible austerity package imposed by the “troika” of the IMF, EU and ECB.

Greece’s press media suffer like everyone else. Last July, a month after the last general elections and a period of intense political interest, the total sales of the Greek newspapers were just 1,084,882 copies. During the first half of this year, the Greek press lost about 15 percent of its readership while the biggest losses are seen in daily editions. Some have already closed, like the eminent Eleftherotypia, leaving hundreds of journalists unpaid since August 2011. The recently favored practice of personal contracts offered by media employers has hit the journalists’ unions and put a wedge in collective professional solidarity. Claims that the political establishment is trying to control the media are always present and the migration of news content from the traditional press to the numerous electronic sites through the well-known method of “copy & paste” makes the problem worse.

Well, this is one side of the story, and it is quite dark. But here comes the surprise. At least four new newspapers are being launched this month in Greece, a business move which can only be seen as highly optimistic. Apparently this is not what their owners think, believing a new approach has given a new dynamism in the sector.

The first new newspaper “Greece Tomorrow” was launched earlier this month with a large team and rich content. In its first issue it had an impact as a specially commissioned opinion poll showed the ultraright party of the Golden Dawn was third-most-popular with 12 percent. Last Saturday, a new newspaper, “Work Now” announced that it would target scores of unemployed or partly employed. “It is a shame that in the Greece of 2012 there are 1.5 million unemployed and an equal number of unsafely employed. We have to take full advantage of all the possibilities for work and employment on offer… we cannot but reveal with authority and transparency all programs which offer finance to small companies, subsidies for agricultural projects. … In any case knowledge is dynamic and the need for a specialized newspaper has now become a mature need. We will publish even one work position, if this exists,” states the new paper in its long announcement on social media. Well-known labor correspondents are among the staff of the paper. Last Saturday “Parapolitika” was launched with a lot of juicy political behind-the-scenes news; well-known journalists, satirical writers etc. are among the staff. Many are looking forward to the launch of the “Editor’s newspaper,” a journalists’ cooperative with respected journalists – some used to work for Eleftherotypia – and well-known intellectuals and academics aiming at creating an independent dynamic voice, an area that was until recently covered by Eleftherotypia. But even Eleftherotypia may not be out of the picture for long. According to the latest information today (September 24) the staff of the newspaper, which remain employed but unpaid since August 2011, will be informed by the owner about a new plan to reissue the paper once a source of financing is found.

According to the latest figures, the economic crisis in Greece has hit the big media groups hard; many are facing a battle of survival this year. Yet, in an interesting twist of the story, the scores of unemployed journalists they created have manned new professional ventures which may give a new kiss of life to traditional journalism.