“Over the one and a half years only one-third of more than 600 local municipal newspapers have been reformed or are undergoing the process now. The rest don’t seem to be able to start the process,” said Oleksandr Diachenko, Head of Legal Department of the Ukrainian Association of Media Business, during a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. He stressed that for many regional media reforming would mean to stop operating at all.
Yevhen Zaslavskyi, Executive Director of the Media Development Fund, said that the regions differ significantly in terms of local media development. “There are regions that have a lot of mass media, but no place for a true, independent journalist to work– Odesa, Dnipro. There are regions with very small media market, very little money, but with great newspapers – Ivano-Frankivsk, Lutsk, and Rivne,” he explained.
Diana Dutsyk, Executive Director of the Public Organization “Detector Media”, said that the problems in the regions focus within two areas – economic and content ones. Olha Trufanova, Executive Director of the Regional Press Development Institute, stressed that within the process of denationalization, the regional mass media willing to start the process of reforming lack funds, and the donors’ interest is small. Natalia Zvoryhina, acting Editor-in-Chief of the Zaporizka Pravda newspaper, said that resulting from the lack of funds, independent media outlets find it hard to compete with newspapers funded by local oligarchs. “What I hear more and more from regional journalists is “we cannot work on important topics because we have no motivation’. And for them motivation equals material incentives,” emphasized Diana Dutsyk. “We conducted an internal survey among our clients. It showed that what people want to learn most is how to write for grants. This means that people want to make money,” Olha Shalaiska, “No Corruption” Project Manager at the Institute of Mass Information.
“Actually, money has gone to the regions, but journalists did not go after it, even investigative journalists. We do not know what happens with this money and there is nobody to control it – there are no civic organizations, investigative journalists, etc.,” said Yaryna Zhurba, Expert on Decentralization of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Diana Dutsyk noted that a biased coverage of the events is a direct consequence of the dependence of the local media on the oligarchs and political forces. “For three years we have monitored how journalists adhere to the professional standards, and we see that within our 5-point scale, the overall score […] almost never reaches 4 points,” said Iryna Novozhylova, Head of the Association of Professional Journalists and Advertisers of Zhytomyr Region. “What we observe is that editors are used to getting money, and not earning them. And now they stand before the problem of how to make the newspaper effective, and they start looking for new ways to work,” she added. Yevhen Zaslavskyi stressed that, in fact, the inquiry for training is very large within the sector. “We have a school for regional journalists […], and now we have 500 applicants there – which means 50 people compete for one place available. […] We have 10 people for one place available within the editorial exchange program,” he added. Iryna Novozhylova noted that it is important not only to provide training opportunities but also show examples of regional mass media that have successfully undergone the process of reforming.
“People who believe in ethics, believe in standards, […] and stubbornly adhere to those – experience shows that if our country shows economic growth, and develops well, then they will be on the forefront of media and will be able to earn decent money,” said Roman Vybranovsky, head of Reform Communications department of the Ukraine Crisis Media Center during the round table.