Dilemma of Ukrainian journalism: professionals vs partiots

Author : Daria Prokaza Oleh Schmidt

Source : 112 Ukraine

Journalist Katya Gorchinskaya on the key problems of Ukraine's media dimension after war
16:27, 21 July 2016

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war journalism

During the Revolution of Dignity and immediately after it, Ukrainian journalism has got more work to be done, and there was no time to reflect on state media. Although some reflection occurred automatically because journalism has faced a number of unprecedented challenges.

For example, during the revolution, many ethical dilemmas associated raised. Are you activists or journalists?  Where is this limit? Do you want to show the other side of the conflict, and if necessary, how? How to separate your feelings from the facts?

Western audiences often ask me how I could work as a journalist and objectively assess the situation, and every time I say that first of all I am a human being first, and then a journalist. I try to objectively assess my restrictions and try to overcome them. For me it was a huge challenge during the revolution. Every time I made a conscious effort in order to reach the other side, in order to understand what is the logic of their actions.

Related: A famous journalist Pavlo Sheremet died in Kyiv today

Often journalists present one side, omitting showing the positions of the other one. They get a distorted picture of the reality, forgetting about their main function – informing. During the revolution, I felt it very strongly and tried to compensate by conscious effort.

With the beginning of the war, this phenomenon has deepened because the aggressor appeared on the horizon, and the government started doing something to resist this aggressor. And the question arose: are we patriots or journalists? How do we present our materials - as advocates or journalists? Another professional dilemma appeared: should we talk to the militants (terrorists?) and how should we call them? What language should be used to describe all these events? These issues are still very relevant, and many journalists have not find answers to these questions.

A separate category of challenges was associated with a lack of skills, because we did not have military journalism in Ukraine. State lived with military doctrine, according to which we did not have any enemies around us. Nobody paid attention for the army, and it gradually deteriorated. It is clear that the war has changed everything, and the journalists had to improve their professional level.

Related: Ukraine's Speaker: 14 Ukrainian journalists deceased since beginning of Donbas conflict

Today Ukrainian journalism has faced a new dilemma. What should we do with the media that were oppositional to the previous government? They were the voice of the opposition as a social concept, not a specific political force. And now, they just cannot give up this fiery rhetoric of the revolutionaries.

In the West, there is a utilitarian concept of journalism (utility journalism), when you give your readers solving for the problems or offer a new cafe convincing that this is cool. You write about something very practical, which is associated with informing, and it has nothing to do with a critical eye. Ukrainian journalists do not like these genres, although it is the bread and butter of Western journalism.

Related: Russian law enforcers charge Crimean Tatar journalist Lilya Budzhurova with ‘extremism’

Someone might think that the reason of Ukraine’s unprofessional journalism is the salary or dealing with too big amounts of materials. Few years ago in Washington, I spoke to the chief editor of Politico and asked about his average daily work. I asked him, how many original materials the journalist should do per day. Twenty - he replied. News, extended news, content adaptation – original content only. In Ukraine this amount is much smaller.

People believe that Ukrainian oligarchic media are unprofitable. Because they are considered in the context of business owned by the oligarch. In fact, if journalism is involved into oligarchic systems, it is a good mean for de-oligarchization. 

Related: EU urges Ukraine to investigate website leak of journalists' personal data

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