Polish journalism organisation The Outriders has started a six-month coaching programme, Media Garage, to help four media organisations in Ukraine and Moldova radically change their editorial, management and revenue strategies.
According to The Outriders CEO Jakub Górnicki, most newsrooms in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) are just as innovative and creative as their western counterparts. However, they are part of an ecosystem that makes it hard for media companies to grow. This is not solely down to a declining advertisement revenue or readers not willing to pay for news - simply getting more money in is not enough to make them thrive.
"What they want is having a societal impact, not living off another grant," said Górnicki.
The programme kicked off with a deep examination of each organisation’s current situation, including SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis of their respective financial strategies, editorial strategies, and internal management.
20 mentors will later help each team with specific areas that are not limited to technical skills. For example, coach and burnout specialist Anna Kuliberda will help implement methods for spotting and preventing exhaustion.
To make sure the Media Garage team understand the challenges inside out, every member of the selected news organisations will undergo intense scrutiny during the months to come.
"We are both excited and frightened by this approach," said Górnicki, explaining that media organisations are often centred around a leader with a big ego who may not welcome close observation and criticism.
The programme, funded by Solidarity Fund PL, received more than 30 applications. The Outriders then selected 10 candidates, looking for media companies with a well-defined mission but also the potential to be transformed. Amongst the main criteria was the awareness of internal problems and not just the focus on 'the next big thing'.
"I believe Media Garage will make them into very strong organisations that are aware of what they want and how they want to achieve it."
Speaking more broadly about supporting media organisation in Central and Eastern Europe, Górnicki disagreed with the 'CEE' label. He explained that we can hardly put countries like Montenegro (around 622,000 citizens) and Ukraine (around 42 million citizens) in one acronymous basket.
"Some countries also struggle with anti-democratic governments or freedom of the press," he said.
"This term is outdated. There is also that connotation that CEE means 'less cool than Western Europe'. But while every country has its challenges, on the European level we see very similar struggles when it comes to media organisations,” he added.
Organisations participating in the first round of Media Garage are:
The Ukrainians is an independent Ukrainian media group comprising of three online resources: The Ukrainians magazine on social initiative and responsibility, the Reporters. magazine specialising in journalistic literary essays, and the Creatives magazine featuring stories about leaders of the Ukrainian creative industries.
#diez is a news website founded in 2013 in Moldova focused on improving the everyday life of young people by keeping them informed and encouraging them to speak out.
Moldova.org is an independent media outlet launched in February 1997 in the Republic of Moldova. It focuses on human rights and gender equality with its video stories and long reads. It publishes both in Romanian and in English.
ShoTam is an independent Ukrainian news site that reports on positive changes in the country, including environment, science, economy and culture.
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