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REFERENCE CLASSIFICATION CREATED LEAKED ORIGIN
08ATHENS1116 UNCLASSIFIED 8/4/2008 5:49 Embassy Athens
 
     
  THE FREE PRESS PHENOMENON: THE VILLAGE  
     
  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 ATHENS 001116

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED

STATE FOR R CRIEHL; EUR CGRAFFEY, MBRYZA; EUR/PPD
MOKEEFE, GCOUCH, BARMSTRONG; EUR/SE KFITZGERALD,
BHUNT, GCOWAN, SALTMAN-WINANS; IIP/SEG RHOBYN
COSTEN; FSI FOR BLEVIN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI, KPAO, OIIP, GR
SUBJECT: THE FREE PRESS PHENOMENON: THE VILLAGE
VOICE AND AM NEW YORK SPEAK IN GREECE

ATHENS 00001116 001.2 OF 002


-------------------
SUMMARY AND COMMENT
-------------------

1. (SBU) On July 25-26, Mosaiko.gr, Embassy
Athens' youth-oriented website, sponsored a
conference entitled "The Free Press Phenomenon" for
publishers, editors, and journalists of the Greek
free and alternati6e press at a beach-side hotel,
featur)ng speaker3 frgm the Village Voice and AM New
York. The right kind of event for a Greek summer,
the cgnferefce allowed us to connect in a caqUal,
fun way with this growing segment kf the media,
including some papers that are exclusi6ely
distributed on college campuses. Having two
speakers who disagreed on key points coming from
such high-profile U.S. outlets made for a lively
discussion, and increased our credibility. You have
to know your readers and write the kind of stories
they want to read, but you also have to know your
advertisers and pay close attention to their bottom
line, the two American journalists stressed,
especially if you want to survive in the Internet
age. Given the great feedback we have gotten to
date, we plan to leverage this exposure to U.S.
models for the next generation of Greek journalists
further by distributing the conference proceedings
electronically, including for use in university
classrooms in the fall.

------------------------------
GROWING FREE, AND GOING STRONG
------------------------------

2. (SBU) In line with global trends, a growing
number of newspapers are being published and
distributed free of charge in Greece, even as the
traditional print press declines. The local
franchise of METRO, launched here in 2000 as a
general interest daily aimed at commuters, currently
estimates a daily circulation of 135,000 copies, as
compared to the highest circulation traditional
newspaper, Ta Nea, which sells around 60,000 copies.
There are also several weekly alterative style
papers in Greece, for example the Athens Voice
(based quite heavily on the Village Voice), some of
which were founded in the run-up to the 2004 Olympic
Games. Most such publications target a youth
audience, and several are distributed exclusively on
college campuses. Both types of free print media
are doing well here, due in part to the fact that
Greece has one of the lowest Internet penetration
rates in Europe (about 30%), although they still do
not enjoy the respect or staffing quality of
traditional publications.

3. (SBU) Given the importance of this segment of
the media and our own MSP focus on the audience they
serve, we thought carefully about keynote speakers
for our conference. We chose former Village Voice
editor Don Forst, now a professor at SUNY Albany,
because of the strong local brand recognition of
this American classic and the fact that it won a
Pulitzer under his leadership. We invited AM New
York's current publisher, Terry Jimenez, because he
represents the largest daily circulation newspaper
in New York, and to add balance to our event. The
IIP Speakers Bureau was able to convince both
speakers to come and arrange all the logistics for
their visit. We then invited 30 publishers,
editors, and reporters representing the 15 top Greek
weekly alternative and daily free press outlets to a
beach-front hotel about an hour from Athens for the
two-day event. The budget for the conference was
about $25,000, of which $15,000 came from EUR/PPD's
"unfunded priorities" allocation, and $10,000 from
post's general operating expense account.

--------------------------
KEEPING IT FREE...AND REAL
--------------------------

4. (U) The conference was divided into three
sessions over the course of a Friday and Saturday,

ATHENS 00001116 002.2 OF 002


each of which featured a presentation by the keynote
speakers, discussion, then answers to questions
submitted by participants in advance. The sessions
were entitled: "The Free Press Phenomenon and Its
Impact on Urban Culture;" "Keeping the Free Press
Alive: Advertising and Budget Issues;" "The Free
Press and the Internet."

5. (SBU) Greek participants were interested mainly
in how to maintain their journalistic freedom and
independence, given the total reliance on
advertisers that goes along with the free press
model. The speakers gave a great picture of how
their papers do this: they not only know their
audiences very well, but pay very close attention to
the business side of their operations. Forst
commented, "We [were] not afraid of anybody...not
our readers...not our advertisers. That comes from
being successful." Some participants noted that
this is not as easy as it sounds in Greece, in part
because the state controls such a large share of the
advertising pie. An experienced Greek journalist
who writes for both mainstream and alternative
papers told us, off-line, that this share is perhaps
30-40%, and moreover, that Greek government
allocations are often politically rather than
economically motivated.

6. (SBU) On another issue of great interest, the
impact of the Internet, the two speakers gave
opposing views. Forst doubted that alternative
print publications would survive the impact of this
new technology, saying that the young Americans he
teaches rarely read any newspaper of any kind.
Jimenez, however, pointed out that tailoring a print
product for New York City subway commuters has been
a very successful business model. He added that his
organization is exploring value-added on-line
services along the lines of e-Bay and Craigslist,
rather than being content just to post its current
content.

-----------------
LET'S DO IT AGAIN
-----------------

7. (U) Prior to the conference, we set up an
interview with Don Forst in a top alternative Greek
weekly, LiFO. The article was positive and included
great pictures: http://www.lifo.gr/content/x8/783.
We also hosted a pre-conference press roundtable
that was well-attended by mainstream Greek media
outlets, including several traditional daily
newspapers and independent SKAI TV, which broadcast
a feature about the event on its weekend ecology-
themed, youth-oriented news program.

8. (U) At the end of the conference, participants
were asked to fill in an on-line survey, with a link
provided on a Mosaiko.gr branded flash disk, with
their thoughts on both the conference and the
website. Because of technical difficulties,
including a poorly timed attack on the site, we have
been unable to collect and process this data. But
all of the invitees expressed interest in learning
about other programs offered by the Embassy and in
working together on news and feature stories going
forward. The speakers also responded very
positively to the experience, and registered their
interest in participating in other State Department
programs.

9. (U) We have posted a feature story about the
conference on our main website,
http://athens.usembassy.gov/mosaiko_conferenc e.html,
and will soon be posting transcripts of the
speakers' presentations on this website as well as
Mosaiko.gr. We also plan to offer taped versions on
DVD to local journalism professors in the fall.

SPECKHARD
 
     
 
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