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February 8, 2014

Politis forum: journalists or losers?

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Written by: Politis

Politis has invited Krysta Kalachani and guest contributor Sakis Ioannides, of Parallaxi, to comment on Παναγιώτης Μένεγος, “Δημοσιογράφος, ο μεγάλος χαμένος (και) της κρίσης,” popaganda.gr, January 28, 2014.

SI Let me summarize “Journalist, the crisis’ big loser,” an article by Panagiotis Menegos, one of the staff writers at popaganda.gr (a multimedia electronic magazine). Menegos wrote an article a few days after the Farmakonisi tragedy, in an effort to demonstrate two main points: a) how the crisis affected the work of the average journalist and b) how major media responded to the breaking news of Farmakonisi case and tend to downgrade facts that might “hurt” the Greek government’s image.

Menegos begins with a reference to The Newsroom TV series and says that young journalists watch the series with great interest and a bit of envy, even though they know that the media desk presented in The Newsrooom is far from reality; they are aware, he says, that they might never take part in a team meeting with a Wiliam Mc Avoy character in charge, work in big stories and investigative journalism. The author continues with a criticism in the way journalists work in the on line media world. The journalist, he says, needs to be a photographer, a graphic designer, a social media expert, a bit of this and that, in order to cope with the downsizing of media jobs and his “success” is now measured with Facebook likes.

In the second part of the article, the author presents the front pages of three major Greek – and pro-government – newspapers the day after the Farmakonisi tragedy. As he says, the incident was downgraded and never made it to the headlines. Then he shows a small part of a national evening news show and criticizes that the commentators exhibit a non moralistic behavior when discussing the story and try to minimize the incident’s social and political impact.

The article concludes with a reference to The Newsroom series and how Mc Avoy would react to such breaking news and an expression of disappointment for the Greek media state. The author says that nowadays, a newspaper’s policy isn’t shaped only by the interpretation of news but also by the report of them, or not. Menegos ends the article with a general conclusion – too general in my opinion – that the journalist is the big looser of the crisis because he/she tends to coincide more often with the extreme right opinions, summarized to the phrase “fish food”, when it comes to incidents similar to the Farmakonisi tragedy.

KK This is a very interesting article which explains, probably from an insider’s view (although I cannot find information on whether the author is a journalist or not), the journalistic crisis that comes to the surface over and over again. I am not sure about the title, though. The author tackles the challenges of journalists in Greece, he also mentions, superficially, the choices a journalist must make in their job, but the title somehow justifyings their bad choices in writing or telling the news.

When you characterize someone a loser (title) , you feel a bit sorry for them, no? So you justify somehow in your mind what they do. However, as in all professions integrity is (for me) not negotiable, much more for professions that should be a vocation and not a simple job, as the author also says.

Therefore, to wrap it up, in the name of survival in crisis-hit Greece at this point in time, one is justified to put aside their ethical values, because of the bad media system in this country, and a journalist working in this system is excused for writing bad, biased, and unreferenced news? I don’t know how many of the journalists are really confronted by their superiors with dilemmas like the following:  “either you write what I tell you or you lose your job,” but I don’t think they are all in this position.

For the ones that are I cannot say anything. Everything in life is a matter of choices, good or bad; one has to be able to support what they choose and not make others feel sorry for them or their choices. Of course there are those exceptions of extreme bad luck, extremely bad conditions, difficult living standards. I am not talking about the exceptions and I am fully aware how these living conditions have deteriorated for Greeks in the last 4 to 5 years (we are all in the same sinking boat). Moreover, I don’t want to be misunderstood that I would flirt with Pangalos “mazi ta fagame” because no, I did not participate in the feast he was referring to.

I am sure that many of the journalists have not participated either, but it is no excuse that in a bad media system one can write badly. We are the ones who must change our working environment for the better, the working conditions and context don’t get better by themselves.

SI I think the writer focuses more on how major media companies and commentators decide what to hit in their headlines and how much of their air time will spend on a certain subject. The author points out that some media companies prefer to downgrade a story — in this case the Farmakonisi tragedy — and form a different news agenda. We should point out though that the headlines and front pages are not controlled or formed by the reporters. This is a job for the senior editors and the directors and in many cases it’s a one-man call which determines where a newspaper stands on a subject and its general policy. It’s not clear through the article whether the reporters wrote a good story or not or if they have their facts straight. The reporter’s story might be the best and the most accurate, but the author argues that it doesn’t belong in small column, “buried,” as he puts it, in the front page.

The article concludes with an assumption of what William McAvoy, the character in “The Newsroom” series, would do in order to dig into the story, and the actions described are those of the investigative journalism sector; unfortunately, this is clearly a luxury in the Greek media world. It is said, and I support this, that the big “loser” of the economic crisis is in fact the investigative type of journalism, a sector which needs a lot of time, money, and people in order to work out and bring great results (the author implies it clearly in the first paragraph of the article).

So, one subject for further discussion would be whether a reporter/journalist should act, and what to do if they don’t agree with their newspaper’s policy. Can you agree every time? And this is not only a Greek journalistic query. And further on, what to do — as a journalist — when such a story breaks, when you know in advance that you won’t be able to spend more than a few hours on it and no more than two or three days.






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