Media consultant Peter Berger learns how to sidestep pressure the Serbian way.
I don't really have time to write a postcard from Serbia. The private media group Belle Amie badly needs an integrated newsdesk for its newspaper, web portal, TV and radio station. They want it as soon as possible because it'll reduce their editorial workload by at least half.
The media group owns a local newspaper as well as a regional radio and TV station. Recently, the head of the company was furious when he saw two of his reporters attending the same press conference at the city hall. One was reporting for the paper, the other for the TV station. "One reporter would have been enough and could have reported for both media," he fumed.
Although some media houses in Germany might think it's worth their while sending reporters from different departments to cover the same event, that's not the case in Serbia. The few private media companies that still exist are struggling to survive. The Serbian economy is at a standstill and so too is the ad market. The key, then, is to organize their work as effectively as possible. They need to tackle and solve problems immediately - if they don't, bankruptcy is almost certain.
That's why there's no time to write a postcard. The new newsroom is almost ready to go - we just need about three days to plan the work schedule and decide things such as who uses the newsdesk and when, and how the workflow should be set up.
On the other hand, despite the pressure, Serbs wouldn't be Serbs if they didn't make time for the other things in life - things like writing postcards, for instance, or sitting in a local café to have long conversations and countless espressos with friends who happen to drop by.
This mix of rough eastern bloc charm and western ideals has fascinated me since I first worked on a media project in Slovakia ten years ago. The people in this part of the world stand their ground. I like that. And with our newsdesks and the talks we give on the future of print journalism I'm glad, together with DW Akademie and my colleague Filip Slavkovic, to be contributing a small piece to the big media puzzle of the Balkans.
Peter Berger advises DW Akademie on management issues. He has more than 30 years of journalism experience, from reporting on the police beat in Hamburg to heading the local desk of the German weekly "Welt am Sonntag", and to creating and heading the website and online radio service of the "Financial Times Deutschland". Ten years ago, Berger started offering consulting and training sessions for media organizations, with a focus on newsdesks, cross-media workflows and digital strategies.