Friday, June 19, 2009

Same issues for newspapers that are 7,000 miles apart.

Although the staff of Panorama in Sumy, Ukraine, isn't as large as the Amarillo Globe-News and the circulation numbers not as high, the staffs of the two newspapers face almost identical challenges.

In Ukraine, citizens are reading the printed newspaper less. Same in the U.S.

The best opportunity for both newspapers lies in technology and a future in online and mobile services. But no one knows for sure exactly how a digital future will unfold and how newspapers can make money from it.

During the week of working with the newspaper staff, discussion of almost every topic was met with nodding heads. They are dealing with the same issues.

While most American weekly newspapers have small staffs, few pages and mostly local news, Panorama has more than 30 employees and has a strong journalistic and advertising staff.

Their business practices match papers that are much larger.

And they are the only media outlet in Sumy that's seriously reporting the news. On the front page this week is a story about how a government official built his house on land he didn't own. The government seems to do that a lot in Sumy and they've been covering the story for two years.

But there are some differences that need to be pointed out.

Subscriptions are sold mostly through the postal service and kiosks that sell papers are also owned by the government.

But even worse is the constant threat that the government might "shut down" a newspaper when it publishes something that it doesn't like.

The publisher of the Panorama has been "interviewed" by government officials in the past and told to keep a lid on critical stories.

He hasn't done that.

A free press is necessary for a true Democratic society. While the treatment of the media is better than during Soviet times, it's still not what it needs to be.

There need to be more papers like Panorama - in the U.S. and Ukraine.

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like you're having a great trip. Your mention of government intimidation brings to mind the current issue of talk radio in this country relative to the Fair and Balanced legislation - government control of journalistic content.