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An Optimist With a Lump In the Throat ...or What (Else) Do the Journalists Want?

30 November 2016
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Sorina Stefarta,
Director of the School of Advanced Journalism   
„...Let’s recall the School and what we’ve learned at School. Let’s find out who has succeeded to do what in the meantime. Let’s talk about the way the Moldovan press has evolved in the last decade and what are the outlooks of the independent journalism”. This is what the invitation to the conference dedicated to the ten-years anniversary of the School of Advanced Journalism (SAJ) sounded like, at the mid of September 2016, when I was sending it to the trainers and the graduates of this project.

It was a daring initiative, given the fact that it’s not easy at all to keep up with such a phenomenon as the media, even in such a small and predictable country as ours. But we came „weaponed” with a survey, which was both sad and optimistic...

When we elaborated the questionnaire, we started from the idea of a radiogram: who does what, how many of the 150 graduates are still in the media and how many of them have migrated to jobs more or less related to journalism, how many of them are working in the country or have decided to go abroad and, last but not least, what role did the SAJ play in their career.  

At a certain point, during the discussions with the colleagues from OSCE, who have helped us organize the conference, we’ve decided to expand these „technical” barriers and to ask the graduates, and also the SAJ trainers, what are the challenges of today and the outlooks of the independent journalism from our country and from abroad.

The media pulse, weaker than never before

We received 55 questionnaires from graduates and from ten trainers (that’s about a third of those we addressed to) – a relevant number, due to the fact that the answers came, prevailingly, from those who have stayed in or in relation to the media, but also considering the fact that the migration phenomenon affected also the journalistic community. The media pulse, which is as predictable as our country, was not the one of a healthy body. But it was a realist pulse, and it precisely shows the state of mind of the press and the society.
As a proof, here are just a few ideas-conclusions, which were synthetized from the survey:

  • Today’s journalism lacks independence and integrity. „Keep your integrity” is also an advice for those who want to start a career in journalism. Those who feel like they won’t be able to stay honest should quit this job, whether they’re already professionals or just beginners.
  • The state of the press is bad as never before, and the mood continues to worsen. This way, on a scale from 1 to 5 in terms of Professionalism, Impartiality, Objectiveness and Independence, the media hardly reaches 2 points. This is why we also need to develop the critical thinking of the consumer. 
  • The challenges with which the young people who are just starting to do journalism are struggling are many and diverse – from the financial ones (the job is low-paid) to the editing policies (which often represent the political bias) of the editorial offices they work at; from the grammar (which the young people have some problems with) to general culture (which the young people sometimes lack); from the political regimentation (of the boss) to the abandonment of the professional deontology (by the employee). 
  • The press is monopolized, both economically and politically by the oligarchy groups. This way, it has become, more than ever, a tool for propaganda and manipulation, although it should be a source of accurate information for the public.

The answer to the question in the title is, therefore, evident: all these uncanny phenomena must disappear. Only then will we be able to speak of healthy mass media.

The solutions, which our fellow journalists suggested, to this problem are both old and applicable, if one wishes to: the promotion of the journalistic values and standards in training, as well as in the daily activity; the public encouragement of the just and independent journalism; the alternative projects that would help the journalists abandon those media, which serve the politicians and the propaganda.

These solutions are necessary especially now, after such an extremely disqualifying electoral campaign, which affected many local mass media. Never before, in Moldova, have the media told so many big lies, and the journalists are to blame for this thing, even though they are going to blame the politicians who keep „pressuring” them. And even if the Moldovans have a short memory, the story about the 30.000 Syrians has the chance to be mentioned in the journalism manuals as an example of manipulation and, along with the „Syrians”, our colleagues, who frightened us every evening on TV, speaking of the invasion, and told us the same lie in the day time, on the internet. 

The article was published within the Advocacy Campaigns Aimed at Improving Transparency of Media Ownership, Access to Information and promotion of EU values  and integration project, implemented by the IJC, which is, in its turn, part of the Moldova Partnerships for Sustainable Civil Society project, implemented by FHI 360.

This article is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The content are the responsibility of author and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.