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Greek Journalists Share Thoughts on SNF’s Scholarship Program at Columbia

February 17, 2019
Achilleas Kouremenos

ATHENS – The future of journalism is always in the field of interest for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF), as evidenced by the event to be held on Friday, February 15, in Athens, part of the monthly series “Dialogues,” which will be attended by The National Herald Publisher-Editor Antonis H. Diamataris. In addition, the SNF supports, for the third consecutive year, the Scholarship Program for Journalists from Greece, in collaboration with Columbia University School of Journalism in New York.

In this context, TNH spoke with scholarship recipients who have already made the trip to the other side of the Atlantic. They shared their experiences, their thoughts about the program, and the possibilities that this opens for them, but also for the beleaguered, in recent years, profession, in Greece.

“Recalling in my memory the entire experience, I realize it was a journey back to the roots of journalism, its principles and values, while taking a look into the future through the equipment the program gave me,” said 33-year-old Athena Kastrinaki, who attended the Columbia Journalism Video Workshop in the summer of 2018.

“I learned to work under intense time constraints and pressure, learned how to operate a camera and work on a professional editing program, and met media colleagues from different countries who, beyond important contacts for work, also became close friends,” she continued.

In fact, as part of her training, Kastrinaki created a short documentary on the Greek-American newspaper of the “Omogeneia,” The National Herald. “On my way to a store that sells the newspaper on First Avenue, coming out of the subway, I heard the Anna Vissi song Kravgi playing on a radio. I followed the music and found myself in front of a small flower shop. There was Mr. Pericles. We talked a long time before I even switched on the camera,” she told TNH of one of the protagonists in the documentary, the florist/TNH reader in New York.

“It is particularly important to connect Greeks abroad with Greece – let alone those on the other side of the Atlantic – and I wanted to capture this reality as faithfully as possible: the success of the uninterrupted publication of the Greek language daily edition through so many years, the difficulties faced by the publishing and journalism sector, but also what this newspaper represents for a reader,” Kastrinaki said.

When asked what she gained from the experience, 30-year-old Elvira Krithari, who attended the Investigative Reporting Course, responded, “A wealth of tools that facilitate journalistic research, useful technical knowledge of data, advice from experienced and acclaimed investigative journalists, but above all another mindset about how to begin my work, even if the media landscape in Greece does not encourage any of that.”

Referring to how it contributed to her subsequent career and perception of the profession, she said, “Tired of the observation of a daunting journalistic framework in my country, but convinced that there are many competent journalists who practice their profession on the moral basis of their defense of the public interest, I turned to professional collectivization and the creation of research teams that differ from the traditional media model, where media owners – often involved in a lot of other economic activities – match journalistic content with their interest.”

Thirty-six-year-old Ioanna Louloudi, in turn, noted the experience, as well as the opportunities offered by meeting, working and cooperating with colleagues from various countries. “I was really interested in learning more about journalistic research that requires cross-border collaboration between groups in different countries, and to learn more about the methods and tools currently used by journalist groups abroad to carry out their research,” noted the experienced journalist, who attended the Investigative Reporting Course.

Asked how the program helped her in her subsequent career, Louloudi was optimistic, “There are many benefits from participating in the Investigative Reporting Course, which was made possible by the SNF scholarship. I believe that what I have learned has greatly expanded the horizons of journalistic issues that I can approach. The most important thing is that it strengthened the belief that despite the difficulties, if someone decides in spite of the times to work properly, there is space for remarkable journalism, even in Greece,” she said.

The 30-year-old Maria Sidiropoulou, who participated in the Columbia Journalism Video Workshop, noted the fact that the program helped her to believe in herself. “Through this program, I gained confidence as I return to the labor market with an even greater skill,” she said, to express her hope in her new job of meeting international journalistic standards.

“A year and a half later, I am in a new medium that aspires to invest more in video production with more involvement from journalists and will to a certain extent try to respond to international media standards with rich audiovisual content that will be channeled into social networking tools. Hopefully,” Sidiropoulou said.

Through a three-year partnership with Columbia University’s School of Journalism, SNF supports all-inclusive scholarships for Greek journalists to join summer professional development programs at the University. Six scholarships per year are offered for each of three Columbia programs: the Lede, the Columbia Journalism Video Workshop, and the Summer Investigative Reporting Course. Applications for the summer 2019 session are open until March 1st.

More information is available online at: snf.org.

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