As the financial crisis came to reign over Greece, big-name print newspapers began shutting their doors. News sites struggled to find resources. Journalists went unpaid. Print ad revenues continued to drop. TV channels slashed their budgets.
Still, Greek people want news; their country is on the world agenda. So Greek journalists and media professionals have continued working.
With traditional news companies struggling to make necessary structural changes, conditions are ripe for innovation. New media outlets are forming to meet demands created by shifting habits of news consumption. And technology is an enabler of these innovations, providing the means for solutions in a struggling economy.
Yes, change is slow. The architecture of the Greek news ecosystem remains. TV is still king for Greeks aged 50 and above in terms of news consumption. Many prefer the worldview offered by traditional newspapers.
But many younger Greeks are engaging in new patterns of information consumption, most of which revolve around digital content. A few noteworthy ways Greek journalists are meeting these demands:
Blogs for Serious News Consumption
Many Greek journalists maintain personal blogs outside the official paper for which they work. A few successful blogs are run anonymously by groups of journalists.
Troktiko was once the most famous Greek blog. But it closed immediately after the sudden death of its presumed founder, Sokratis Gkiolias, on July 2010. Still, it was this blog which forged the trend of Greek news blogs. It shook up the Greek information world in an attempt to shift the public’s attention from traditional media outlets.
Many a top-level manager or bank executive in Greece will confess to no longer trusting the mainstream Greek media. Rather, they find information through news blogs. Gone are the days when they exclusively trusted Kathimerini or Naftemboriki, both major Greek newspapers.
“Reading a blog is useful so that you can learn something extra that newspapers and channels will not publish. But always keep a critical reading on what’s been posted on blogspots, because a lot of them take advantage of the anonymity and they focus on personal disputes with mudslinging and treacherous attacks, which is ultimately indifferent to the reader,” said Mania Yiannou, a Greek bank executive.
Fimotro has all the information one expects to find in a reputable blog, he added.
“Fimotro immediately uploads the news with pictures and video and in cases of major scandals, will soon put out a teaser or will be the first to publish it before any other media outlet. I cannot say that everything is fact-checked.
“But there comes the experience of the reader to be able to filter out the important and not waste too much time on trivial gossip. I read blogs alongside mainstream media but read them on equal weight,” said the 39-year-old bank executive.
Giorgos-Ikaros Babassakis, a producer at Amagi web radio, says traditional radio has become an extension of TV. Radio producers comment on the previous night’s TV talk shows, thereby connecting with Greece’s most penetrating medium.
Amagi is trying to do something else.
Maria Tsakos, also a producer at Amagi, said her online station “is more of an effort to leave a trace in time and space, to leave behind a footprint of culture.”
Radiobubble.gr is one of the most famous Greek web radio stations. According to its manifesto, “Since Internet gives us the possibility, if someone in Paris or Sao Paulo, wants to have a song, a movie or one of our poems, he should have it!” You can listen to Radiobubble.gr with the embed below:
Many Greek documentary journalists are actually artists in the medium of radio.
Aris Chatzistefanou blends politics, music and literature in an audio “fairy tale” documentary and relates his stories to current international affairs. “Infowar,” his show, is one of a kind. For Chatzistefanou, it’s an effort to present news through art. He learned this craft when he worked for the BBC.
Asked about innovation, he said he considers the idea to be a luxury in today’s media landscape. “I do it, but I may need two hours to trace the right lyrics of the song that corresponds with today’s news.”
His show originated on Skai radio in 2005. Then there was the television version. The show was featured as one of the biggest success stories of recent years on Greek radio, earning tens of thousands of listeners who listened live or on-demand via the station’s website.
A transcript of one of Infowar’s programs is available here.
Crowdfunded Crisis-Related Documentaries
Aris Chatzistefanou was also one of the first Greek media professionals to fully understand that news isn’t just a product, but a community. Although Chatzistefanou made his name in mainstream media, he soon realized he had a slightly different journalistic approach. He took issue with what he calls the “severe approach” to covering the political and financial crisis.
He decided to tell his side of the story.
Along with three other journalists, Chatzistefanou orchestrated a documentary entirely produced by the audience. He crowdfunded 8,000 euros ($10,181) in 15 days. The resulting Debtocracy seeks to uncover the causes of the debt crisis and considers solutions sidelined by the government and the dominant media. The documentary has been distributed online under a Creative Commons license since April 6, 2011, subtitled in six languages.
The documentary follows the course of countries like Ecuador, which created Audit Commissions, and tracks similar processes in Greece.
In order to avoid any kind of creative interference, the team turned to the citizens who helped co-produce the film. The public’s response was overwhelming, and it led the team to undertake a new project: the documentary “Catastroika: Privatization goes public,” embedded below:
This approach to covering Greek crisis provoked a chain reaction of other creative minds like the creators of the “DG&DG Das Geld und die Griechen“ project (“Money and Greeks”):
The initiative belongs to one German and one Greek woman who obtained 30 hours of interview footage. Making a first selection resulted in 143 narrative sections (clips) with a total duration of three hours and 23 minutes.
“The Prism GR2011“ is a collective documentation of Greece during 2010-2011 crisis. It compiles different viewpoints, exploring the different dimensions of an afflicted nation. Its characters are diverse and range from rebel leftist youth groups, to young Greek entrepreneurs, to a young couple abandoning city life for something simpler on an island, to the troubled journey of immigrants as they attempt to reach Europe.
While most Greek TV channels transmit their programs via the web, only Focus Web TV is an exclusively web-focused TV channel.
At webtv.gr, one can watch free TV stations broadcasting their program via the Internet.
Web TV might be considered the next big thing by some for several reasons, mostly those concerning marketing and advertising. Advertisers relate consumers’ needs with their online profile in order to increase targeted advertising and sales efficiency.
As is the case for web radio, the challenge as well as the stake here for the creators is to avoid copying and pasting the rules of the traditional media business which is in trouble.
“Citizens’ TV,” as it’s called in English, is the project of several professional journalists based in Crete. They decided to create space on the Internet for news that would otherwise never be heard.
Crowdfunded as well, the creators’ goal for the moment is to translate the content into English first, in order to communicate the topics outside of Greece rather than contemplate how to make money in the internal market.
Their stories include ones like “Who is profiting from the climate change,” an interesting interview with professor John Christy over the nuanced story of climate change.
The advantage of the Polites TV venture: no more barriers to publishing and a relatively low cost for producing and broadcasting.
Protagon.gr: Some media professionals call it an effort to create a Greek version of the Huffington Post — but less like a news aggregator or even an Internet newspaper.
Protagon is a platform whose aim is not to present news, but opinions and articles by famous Greek journalists, columnists, and personalities who comment on current affairs. It is relatively open to the public, given the fact that Greek media don’t invest in online community or in comment management systems.
Elina Makri was born in Athens, where she still lives. She studied law in France and international and European law at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. Returning to Greece in 2006, she founded the Greek branch of the pan-European magazine cafebabel.com, which at the time was the first European magazine for young people. She still manages Babel Greece. She won the a Charlemagne Youth Prize of the European Parliament in 2012. She also works as project manager of journalistic ventures and has started a project about media fixers called Oikomedia.
This post originally appeared on the website of the European Journalism Center, an independent, international, non-profit institute dedicated to training journalists and media professionals to the highest standards in journalism.