OPINION

Athens Plus stops publication

Dear readers, this is the last copy of Athens Plus that we are publishing. We are sorry to let you know at such short notice, we are sorry that it is closing, we are sorry to see many of our colleagues go. Unfortunately, we ran out of choices. Our newspaper sprang to life just two-and-a-half years ago, as our publisher’s gesture of hope in our country’s development and in the durability of print; it was born of the successful collaboration of Kathimerini and the International Herald Tribune, and of our talented staff being told to go out and do their best. Our joint venture began in early 1998, when Greece’s most prestigious newspaper teamed up with the global daily to create Kathimerini’s English Edition, which started life as an eight-page insert in the IHT in Greece and Cyprus. Ten years later, in June 2008, Athens Plus was born, the inspiration of our owners, who wanted a newspaper that would be modern and beautiful, that would inform and entertain, that would cover the needs both of those who live in Greece and those visiting it. We made that newspaper. But it wasn’t enough. I write these lines as I sit among the cubicles of 10 laid-off colleagues. A staff of eight remains, in order to produce the daily Kathimerini English Edition and to form the core of a new English-language Internet venture that we plan to have online early in the new year. A sense of inescapable sadness hangs over the office, like a death in the family. It is, in many ways, the death of our little family. Many of us had been together for 13 years, since the start of Kathimerini’s English Edition. A few of us are still here in the early hours of Thursday – like every Thursday since June 2008 – working on this final edition. Our colleagues have gone off into the unknown. Much of the team that had developed from the days when we started out at Kathimerini’s original headquarters on Socratous Street just off Omonia, has scattered. On this page you will find the names of those who were part of Athens Plus. With their skills, they could have worked anywhere in the world. They chose Greece because they love it. Now they are paying the price – like most people in this country. This was a team that combined intimate knowledge of Greece and its capital, its history and culture, its politics and finances, its people and places, its hopes, its problems and its secrets. The result of their work was better than we could have hoped. Thanks to our art director, Valentina Villegas-Nikas, Athens Plus was named Europe’s Best Designed Newspaper in 2008. The jury statement noted the successful blend of form and content: «Elaborately researched columns, such as ’20 events in 7 days’ or a page with event tips for all the family called ‘Family Fun,’ go part and parcel with the basics of this service-oriented newspaper. Reports, interviews and facts give the readers further ‘news to use,’ serving them in Athens and throughout Greece as planning assistance for the week ahead.» We were pointed at as a newspaper of the future. Our readers responded, with their numbers gradually increasing, with their letters and comments forming a lively debate on Greece, its partners and its place in the world. Unfortunately, as our reporting and opinion pieces made abundantly clear from the start, Athens Plus was born at a time that Greece was sliding inexorably toward the current economic crisis. Advertising dried up, hotels and airlines cut down on purchases, and fewer tourists visited Greece over the past year. Next year does not look any better. We were losing money and had to do something about it. With revenues declining, we had no option but to cut costs. We became a microcosm of our country, part of the story that we were covering. We got to the point where, if we continued to make the cuts that would help us break even, we would have destroyed what we were making. We had no choice but to stop publishing the weekly while continuing to produce a daily edition that remains part of the IHT in Greece and Cyprus. A newspaper’s first duty is to its readers and we know that many will be disappointed in us. That’s why we want to make a promise to them, as we did to our colleagues: In this most challenging time, our daily edition and our upcoming digital revival will provide them with all the news of interest to anyone in Greece or who is interested in Greece, the incisive comments of our columnists, and all the arts events that will keep them part of what is happening, that will make them part of our community. Our hope is that the digital edition will allow us to bring back members of staff who have had to leave. Because if Athens Plus has taught us something beyond the pain of an economic crisis, it is that a few people can do a huge amount of work very well if they have the talent, the commitment and close understanding between them. If all friends, if all families, were like our team, this would be a different country, a different world. We have been privileged to work with each other, and to have you as our readers. Just as Greece has to save itself by reorganizing itself, by using fewer resources to greater effect, we are determined to get through this crisis and to play the role that we must in Greece’s revival. Nick Malkoutzis Elis Kiss Christine Sturmey Harry van Versendaal Dimitra Angeli Niki Kitsantonis George Georgakopoulos Stelios Bouras George Kolyvas Laura McDowell Steve Stafford Soultana Kalligas Deborah Ellis Nikol Karali Evie Kousoula Julia Panayotou Phoebe Fronista Katerina Voussoura Vivienne Nilan Evangelia Arvaniti Yvette Varvaressou Alexandra Koroxenidis Theokli Kotsifaki Haris Argyropoulos Manos Symeonakis Maria Kirchantzoglou Panos Athanasainas Mark Weinstein John Leonard Jens Bastian Valentina Villegas-Nikas Nikos Konstandaras