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The crisis of the press and the difficult transition to the digital era

25 May 2011 / 20:05:26  GRReporter
4799 reads

Marina Nikolova

The fear that print editions would disappear should be overcome, and there should be discussions about the public need of reliable information and transparency, about the possibility of a dialogue. The 20th century model which was built on the existence of gatekeepers, who follow the news and control the information flow collapsed and something new appeared in its place, something that is still evolving," said the lecturer Betty Tsakarestou during the congress "The crisis of the press and the difficult transition to the digital era," organized by Panteion University in Athens. The hierarchical and closed systems are changing and the media response is their short-sightedness to assess and their refusal to accept the new reality, looking at the same time to the past with nostalgia. The transition is to another model that is based on "trust" rather than "control" as well as on open platforms and constantly giving public statements rather than "protectionism" and opacity of closed relations of interdependence.

But modern laws are needed, noted the President of the union of local daily newspapers Yannis Laskarakis. The anonymous writers online and the populism mislead people, and the authors need not to sign the materials they publish on the web, added Laskarakis.

In this respect, Betty Tsakarestou noted that the current trend in the American websites is that more and more bloggers, when writing their comments, to say in advance for whom they work, where they worked before, what are their sources and how they are connected with the organisations that are involved in their comments so that their readers to know and not to wander who wrote the comment and what interest lies behind a given comment. The question of whether there is an objectivity of the news or the comment, or if everything is sincere and expressed, finds its answer in that the author has to present to the readers all his sources of information used and his background, so that it is clear how he has linked the various information and made a given conclusion or a statement. "The context is more important than the content of the information," said Betty Tsakarestou.

The question for the survival of the press remains and also whether it is possible to move to a new era. According to the university teacher, the transition to the new era needs to constantly experiment and there is no need of hesitation to do something because of fear of failure, and the necessary condition is that there is openness and publicity, and trust in people. We already live in such conditions in the 21st century that all we do will be in a trial period, because we live in an environment with plenty of ideas, resources, cooperation, sharing, said Tsakarestou. Basically, this transition is made from a culture of specific state participation to a culture in a free market.

Yannis Laskarakis talked about the newspapers in the country and the need to become competitive, as the state advertising has significantly diminished, and their share is very limited as part of the private advertisers. So, they have to adapt to the new conditions. "We believe in a local press that will be competitive and will be guided by the principles of quality and sustainability, i.e. it will rely on its readers. The publishers should realize that the era of cash cows is gone. They should learn to swim in "the deep waters" of the free market, the quality products and competition. Otherwise, they will remain in the "shallow" and "muddy waters" of mediocrity, said Laskarakis adding that the government should also help by establishing laws that would create an environment of transparency.

"All studies show that local newspapers sell three times more copies in the countryside than any other newspapers that come from Athens. Unlike Athenian newspapers the circulation of which is falling because of the increase and the popularity of online media and blogs, the local press is keeping its readers. The problems of the local press are due to the fact that it has no sufficient share in the advertising cake, which has also shrunk because of the crisis. Furthermore, the law that provides the state advertising to be allocated in percentage among the local media is not applied, and the advertising is allocated mainly to the publications that are circulated throughout the country," said Laskarakis. He noted that local newspapers have to gain their place and that they could push good ideas and inform their readers in a responsible manner. The president of the union of daily local newspapers gave as an example several editions in the area of ​​Evros, which managed through their publications to change the existing xenophobic inclinations in the area and helped create a favourable atmosphere for the relations with the neighbours and for the coexistence of the people from the Thrace area with people of different faiths and backgrounds.

Laskarakis noted that the problem of local newspapers development is the lack of decentralisation in the country for many years. According to him, through the Kalikratis plan for reforming the administrative system of local government, it is expected to completely change the way of management and to have local elections for regional governors, so that the local press would have to play its responsible role. Therefore, Laskarakis said that it is necessary the people working in the newspapers to have continuous training so as to fulfill their obligations to make a strong local press. There have been many newspapers, which were not sufficiently popular among the readers, but they had state advertising and relations with the local governments, and this is how they were supported.

Tags: SocietyMediaMedia newsCrisisNewspapersDigital mediaDecentralisationBlogsPopularity
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