‘We have no money, but we still have our voices’

8 August 2012

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Source : Gary van der Merwe via Wikimedia Commons

Sti Galera, meaning ‘On the Galleon,’ is a new, independent website created by nine ex-graduates of the media department of the National University of Athens. They decided to join forces in order to express their opinions in a country where the rough economic times can eat anyone alive.

Spyros Smyrnis and Marianna Kourkouni are two of those Greek graduates.

Spyros, the editor of the website, explains the motives that guided this team to create Sti Galera.

‘We started this website primarily to fill our need for reporting and writing,’ he says.

‘We try to sketch how our country really looks like, without fears or restrictions. Under these circumstances people need liberated voices and we try to shout louder than anyone.’

Marianna is one of the few members of this team that works professionally as a journalist. Most of the others pursue other careers to make a living.

‘I have started working as a volunteer journalist five years ago. Only the last two and half years I get full salary and insurance,’ says Marianna.

‘However, due to the economic crisis, many of my colleagues were made redundant and no one was hired to replace them. This means lower journalistic standards and more work for us, to areas we are not trained to cover.’

Greece’s unemployment rate continues to climb. In July 2009, the rate was just 8.9 per cent. It’s currently over 22 per cent.

‘Another member of our team was working on a website with more than 30000 views. She had to post news every five minutes and, due to redundancies, she was alone for 12 hours everyday,’ Spyros adds.

Clientelism, the exchange of goods and services for political support, is one of the most serious issues that Greece has faced.  But is networking the only precondition to get a job as a reporter, or education is enough?

‘In Greece we only have three university departments for journalism,’ says Spyros.

‘However, we see people from other professions, lawyers, doctors or even ex-security guards, [find jobs] in newspapers and radio stations just because they knew the right person in the right place. In Sti Galera, most of us have post graduate degrees but only two of us now work as professional journalists.’

Marianna shares a similar view.

‘No one trusts you. They offer you just the dirty work and when you try to make something on your own it will be manipulated by the editor to whichever extent he finds appropriate,’ she says.

‘However, to me, my university degree helped me to move from square one, but if it wasn’t for my network I wouldn’t be able to get a decent job.’

Marianna also shares similar ideas about journalism worldwide.

‘Things have changed everywhere, not only in Greece. Now we run an endless race to disseminate the news quicker, even if they lack accuracy or appropriate grammar. In addition to that, there are numerous websites and blogs that just reproduce news from other websites. We have heaps of commentators and few reporters.’

‘Many people believe that journalism is about creating a Twitter and a Facebook account, following celebrities and generate news from their statuses. On the other hand, due to the internet, we have the opportunity to read anyones opinion. This makes internet a much more democratic medium than television or newspaper,’ Spyros adds.

Contrary to Spyros pessimistic forecast about Greece in eight years, Marianna avoids to make a particular prediction.

‘Things change rapidly these days; I don’t even know what will happen the next few months, let alone the next eight years,’ she says.

‘What I am hoping though is that we learn from our mistakes, see what went wrong all these years and never forget what we have suffered since 2009.’

Ody Kripotos is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University and is a staff writer for upstart. You can follow him on Twitter: @noseriousreasons