Moldovan editors sample American journalism
Ten editors from Moldova spent two hours Thursday at The Corydon Democrat newsroom to learn how a small community newspaper in America works, from making money to reporting the news.
The editors, who speak primarily Russian and Romanian, were brought to Harrison County from Louisville by David E. Eisenmenger of the sponsoring organization, the Louisville International Cultural Center, and Dr. Jerry Wheat of Crandall, an international business professor at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany and a board member of LICC.
For their 21-day stay in the United States, the 10 journalists were joined by two professional interpreters, Misha Feigin of Louisville, a native of Moscow and a professional folksinger, and Dimitri Klimenko of Fairfax, Va., an expert on Chechnya.
As the reporting staffs of The Corydon Democrat and Clarion News listened, O’Bannon Publishing Co. Publisher Denny Huber talked about the publishing business and fielded questions for about an hour before the group broke for coffee from the Head Bean Coffee Shop in Corydon.
The visiting editors asked if public notices must be printed by law, how are rates established for legal advertising and display advertising, does the newspaper have to announce its circulation, does it charge for space on its Internet Web site, and ‘Is your little press necessary, or are there others?’
They wanted to know who reads The Corydon Democrat, how many papers are printed each week, and how are they sold. Feodor Zanet, editor-in-chief of a new newspaper published in Gagauzian, a Turkish dialect, asked if anyone sells papers door-to-door, like they do in his region of Moldova, which has a large Turkish population. One of Zanet’s colleagues, Irina Lavrova, edits a 6,000 circulation newspaper, ‘The Voice of Balti,’ that’s printed in German.
‘For me,’ Lavrova said later, ‘this trip is a great present.’
All the editors have college degrees, most of them from Moldova State University. Nicolae Rosioru has published four books of poetry. Some of them brought copies of their publications, which resemble weekly publications. Zanet displayed a colorful magazine supplement for children.
Some of the editors work for ambitious, privately-owned dailies established in the past few years, and a few work for government-subsidized or muncipally-owned papers. In some areas, they compete for readership, not always happily. The government-subsidized newspapers deal with pressure from officials who want the news printed according to their policies, and they have means of exerting pressure on wary advertisers to determine who gets badly needed ad revenue.
Moldova is about the same size as Indiana with about the same population, six million. It’s on the same latitude as Indiana, so its climate is similar to ours. It is an agricultural state with only one large city, Chisinau (pronounced KEESH-nev), the capital. Moldova is a physically beautiful country squeezed between Ukraine to the north and Romania to the south. The Black Sea is a short distance to the southeast, but Moldova has no seaport.
With little industry and few exports, Moldova is now the poorest nation in Eastern Europe, trailing Albania. A former republic in the Soviet Union, Moldova has Russian and Ukrainian minorities. Most of the people speak Russian or Romanian.
Moldova has another distinction: it is the only former Soviet republic to vote a Communist government back into power. Two years ago, the Communists won control of Parliament with 37 percent of the vote. The country had a law then that said in order for a political party to win a seat in Parliament, it had to have at least five percent of the vote. Now that the Communists control the government, that law has been changed: it’s12 percent.
One reason for Communist success in Moldova is their generations of political experience. Communists know how to organize and ‘motivate’ voters. The many new political parties, with little experience or money, combined with their inability to deal collectively with widespread corruption, have been at a loss.
‘The Communists never left power, they just changed hats,’ one editor said.
That’s not to say they can’t be voted out of power in the next election, another visitor said.
Another reason for Moldova’s impoverished state, besides lack of exports, is the brain drain. One million young people, many well-educated and ambitious, have moved abroad to find success, leaving an elderly population that’s used to a Soviet-style central command economy. A western-style free market economy, adopted after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has meant chaos and poverty for many people in Eastern Europe, who were used to the security that socialism attempted to provide, although it also meant the absence of basic rights and freedoms.
The editors may have been surprised to learn that the majority stockholder in O’Bannon Publishing Co. is the governor of Indiana, Frank L. O’Bannon. They asked if that is legal, and they seemed pleased to learn that he does not dictate what is in his newspapers. One local reporter said, ‘He finds out what’s in the paper when he reads it.’
In Moldova, elected officials must transfer their stock or ownership of a company when they take office.
They were bright-eyed when they learned that First Lady Judy O’Bannon would be making her fifth trip to Moldova, in May, accompanied by a doctor with badly needed medical supplies. One editor asked if the First Lady could possibly help her son, 30, who is desperately ill in Drochia, a city north of Chisinau.
Huber was asked about circulation figures and fluctuations (‘Does it depend on the season?’), and are reporters paid according to the lines of copy they write, or do they get a salary? If so, what is the pay range for professional reporters? Huber paused and said, ‘I’ll give you that later.’
One editor said his newspaper often sponsors poetry and literature contests to build circulation.
The visitors asked about signed letters to the editor, libel laws, and they were curious about The Corydon Democrat’s controversial ‘Live Wire’ column that allows anonymous comments on local issues from readers.
The Moldovan journalists said they are not allowed to have police radioes, but they are given police and government reports. One editor said, ‘Ninety percent of the information is untrue,’ and everyone laughed.
After Managing Editor Jackie Carpenter explained the various beats covered by Corydon Democrat writers, Klimenko opined, ‘God, that’s a lot!’ The other interpreter explained to the editors what ‘school boards’ are.
The editors were presented with bottles of five types of wine provided by Laura Pfeiffer of Turtle Run Winery in Lanesville (Moldova is well known for its many vineyards and high-quality wine) and ‘goody bags’ from the Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County containing coffee mugs, maps, Preston microwave popcorn, and copies of the newest Chamber tourist magazine, ‘Images of Harrison County.’
For lunch, the group went to Ryan’s Family Steak House, where they could choose their food from the buffet, but about half the group opted to spend their lunch hour at the Wal-Mart Supercenter nearby.
That afternoon, they headed to Louisville magazine. They were also scheduled to spend time at LEO, Snitch, The Louisville Courier-Journal, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and the Lexington Herald-Leader.