Whose news?

The following question is directed at those who remember the good old days, but it is equally relevant today. Can you imagine any of the old newspaper publishers like Nassos Botsis, Panos Kokkas, Kyros Kyrou, Georgios Athanasiadis or Eleni Vlachou appearing nightly in television windows to offer live commentary on the news of the day? This is more than a rhetorical question, of course. Simply put, a publisher’s prestige precludes him from appearing on these tasteless shows. More importantly, the roles of publisher and journalist are incompatible. The charter of the Athens journalists’ union, ESIEA, states that any member who has served as the owner or joint-owner of a newspaper will be ejected. How is it possible, then, that the bulk of commentators on private television news bulletins are owners of daily newspapers or electronic media? Why do they keep appearing as journalists, a title they lost by becoming publishers? These questions are not directed at the Athens journalists’ union, whose energy is anyway wasted on internal wrangles. Rather, they are meant to inform ordinary citizens about who informs them, and how. The union’s charter bars publishers from working as journalists to protect the profession from the interests of businesspeople. The days when publishers saw themselves more as journalists than businessmen are over. As ESIEA itself recently acknowledged, the media are now dominated by people who treat the news as a commodity. This also explains why successful TV stars who until recently flirted with politics now prefer to own media. Maybe they now realize that the expanded role of the publisher gives them even more clout than parliamentary deputies or government ministers. It’s not enough for readers or viewers to know that. They must also be careful in picking their news providers.

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