7 New Ways Greek Journalists Are Reporting Old News


imageAs 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 continue dropping. TV channels have 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.

Fimotro blogspot is the current “big thing” in terms of news blogs.
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 where 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,” says Mania Yiannou, a Greek bank executive.

Fimotro has all the information one expects to find in a reputable blogspot, he adds.

“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,” says the 39-year-old bank executive.

Other famous Greek blogs: press-gr.blogspot.gr, tro-ma-ktiko.blogspot.gr.

Web Radio

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, says 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 give 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!”

Other Greek web radio stations worth watching: tripradio.gr, foititikospalmosradio.blogspot.gr.

Audio Documentaries

Many a Greek documentary journalist is actually is an artist 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 says 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 the website of the station.

A transcript of one of Infowar’s programmes is available here.

Crowd-funded 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 EUR 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 had been distributed online under a Creative Commons license since 6 April 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.

This approach to covering Greek crisis provoked a chain reaction of other creative minds like the creators of the “DG & DGDAS 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 3 hours and 23 minutes.

The Prism GR2011 is a collective documentation of Greece during 2010-11 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.

Web TV

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 Internet.

Web TV might be considered the next big thing for several reasons, mostly those concerning marketing and advertising.  Advertisers relate the user’s / consumer’s 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 traditional media business which by the way is in trouble.

Polites TV

Called “Citizens’ TV” in English - is the project of several professional journalists based in Crete. They decided to create space on the Internet for news that in 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” where Dionellis holds 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 relatively low cost for producing and broadcasting.

Opinion Portals

Protagon.gr: Some media professionals call it an effort to create a Greek version of 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 do not invest in online community or comment management systems.

Tags: world wide web, online journalism, news media, greece, debtocracy, citizen journalism, blog,