The history and roles of minority media across Europe are inevitably connected to the situation of the minority communities themselves. The general level of democracy, translated into legal guarantees and their implementation in the countries where they live, together with ideologies, political and economic crises and wars, condition the lives of minorities and shape the conditions in which daily newspapers pursue their natural roles, typically as a means of unification and inclusion of, ideally, all members and components of a community. The experiences of Italian and Slovenian minorities in today’s Croatia, Slovenia and Italy reflect that fact.
Globalisation, alongside the technological transition in the media overall, has been giving minorities a new series of challenges. The examples of even the most remote rural communities of Slovenes in Valle Resia (Rezija) in Italy show that new times can actually bring about new solutions, which can increase inclusiveness and potentially reinforce ties between the community. Minority media can thus take advantage of new possibilities, genders and formats.
Sharing the experiences of some outstanding protagonists during the first MC Media Management Academy, and their debate at the conclusive panel of the fourth edition of the Conference on Minority and Local Media in Belgrade, provided excellent insights into these phenomena. The participants were: Bojan Brezigar, President of the Executive Committee of Primorski Dnevnik, Trieste (Trst); Maurizio Tremul, President of the Executive Council, the Italian Union, Rijeka (Fiume); Massimo Sbarbaro, Founder and Managing Director of Rubedo, Ljubljana; and Natasa Heror, Founder and Managing Director of Heror Media Pont, Novi Sad, who was also the lead organiser of the Conference.
Metamorphoses of Primorski dnevnik
Bojan Brezigar, publisher and former Editor-in-Chief of Primorski dnevnik, presented the story of the homonymous daily newspaper, published in Trieste in the Slovenian language. Looking back to the times of "Edinost", the first Slovenian daily newspaper in Trieste, which was first published in 1876 and closed down by the fascist Italian government in 1928, he touched on the critical historical passages of the newspaper's development and metamorphoses, inevitably closely associated with the lives of the Slovenian minority in Italy/Friuli-Venezia Giulia.
Primorski dnevnik started as the official daily of the Slovenian Liberation Front in Trieste after the liberation of Trieste in May 1945, as a "re-launch" of its predecessor, Partizanski dnevnik, the only partisan daily in Nazi-occupied Europe, which was published in the woods as the daily paper of the Slovenian Resistance from September 1943.
At the time the main topic was centred on the question of Trieste, then administered by USA-UK forces, becoming part of Yugoslavia. The newspaper represented mainly left-oriented Slovenes; when, during the following years, the left-leaning Slovenes split into two factions, Primorski dnevnik stayed closer to the pro-Yugoslavian wing. Following political tensions in the Trieste area, the city finally returned to Italian administration with the London Memorandum of 1954. At that time Primorski dnevnik abandoned its reference to the Liberation front, as it became evident that the border would not change. The newspaper became the voice of the Slovenian minority, while politically still representing the pro-Yugoslavian wing. After the Osimo Treaty between Italy and Yugoslavia in 1975, the question of the “protection law” to be brought in by the Italian parliament prevailed as the main topic for Slovenes in Italy. At that time Primorski dnevnik opened itself up to different political options.
The fall of the Yugoslavian socialist regime and Slovenia's independence in 1991 changed the structure of Slovenes in Italy. Primorski dnevnik became politically plural, while the Slovenian minority was still awaiting the protection law. It finally arrived on 15th February, 2001, after 36 years. The newspaper opened to external comments, representing and reflecting the society at large. When Slovenia entered the European Union, the paper started to provide more information on Slovenia and strengthened its Gorizia pages and then cooperated with the Slovenian media on several projects.
Overcoming effects of the economic crisis
When Primorski dnevnik celebrated 60 years, its circulation was at 11,000 6 days a week, running 24-32 pages and a web edition produced by 16 journalists. It underwent a number of technological advancements, notably a new computerised editorial system and colour pages in 1992. Following the financial crisis in Italy, Primorski dnevnik found itself under financial pressure due to the reduction of state funding, which was its crucial source of financing – more than 50%. A savings program included a reduction in staff and pages and a solidarity scheme. However, Primorski dnevnik survived and today, even after its 70th birthday in 2015, it continues with 14 journalists on 20-24 pages, with a strengthened digital edition and social media (Facebook, Twitter). The paper is waiting for new legislation which should introduce further guarantees for its financing. The paper is 60-70% financed through public sources and the rest comes from subscriptions, single-copy sales and advertising. Its door-to-door distribution to subscribers remains a rarity on the Italian print media landscape.
Recognition by the City of Trieste
In 2015 Primorski dnevnik celebrated its 70th anniversary. On this occasion, the Mayor of Trieste, Roberto Cosolini, hosted a conference dedicated to minority media in the main assembly hall of the city's Town Hall. "We cannot imagine our city without Primorski dnevnik, an essential component of its social infrastructure,” stated Cosolini in his opening address. As one of the initiators of the European Association of Daily Newspapers in Minority and Regional Languages (MIDAS), Bojan Brezigar's contribution was essential in attracting the editors-in-chief of seven other daily newspapers in minority languages to speak at the event.
MIDAS was established in 2001 (www.midas-press.org), an independent, non-profit Association for Minority Press, uniting daily newspapers in minority or regional languages. It currently has 27 members from 11 countries, published in 12 languages. Its headquarters is at the European Academy in Bolzano Bozen, South Tyrol. This is not by chance; Dolomiten, the daily newspaper in German published by Athesia Verlag, one of the best performing examples in the European minority press landscape, has its headquarters there. Its CEO, publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Toni Ebner, was one of the speakers at the Anniversary Conference in Trieste in September 2015.
La Voce del Popolo: the voice of the Italian community "reborn" in the post-war era
Maurizio Tremul, President of the Executive Council of the Italian Union, an organisation uniting the Italian minority in Croatia and Slovenia, was the chief organiser of the MIDAS Assembly in Opatija (Croatia) in spring 2015. In Belgrade, he presented the legal framework and life of the Italian community, which has continued to as live a united entity even after the independence of Croatia and Slovenia in 1991. Tremul emphasised the importance of the education system for the life of the Italian community, as well as cultural and research institutions such as "Dramma Italiano di Fiume" in Rijeka and the Centre for Historical Research in Rovinj, both in Croatia. He described the life of 53 Italian communities in Croatia and Slovenia before touching on the issue of the media, notably the publishing house EDIT in Rijeka, publishers of the daily La Voce del Popolo, and radio and TV broadcasters.
As Tremul emphasised, “In the post-war era, EDIT, the publisher of La Voce del Popolo, had a duty to reinvent itself as a publishing company capable of turning to a social community that was being re-established – the group of Italians of Istria and Fiume reborn as a minority." In that framework of reciprocal exchange, EDIT and its readers have both taught and learned how to be a minority. The role, and especially the chances for development, of the Italian National Community have always been indissolubly tied to those of its mass media or, better, to the ability of the minority to become a topic.
EDIT has published the daily newspaper La Voce del Popolo since 1945, one of the 6 daily newspapers in Italian that are published outside Italy, with various inserts and 40 full colour pages of information in Italian produced and published every day. Other publications include the fortnightly magazine PANORAMA (since 1952), with in-depth analysis on politics, society, art and culture, the magazine ARCOBALENO, a monthly publication for children which has been published since 1948, and the literary magazine LA BATTANA, published quarterly since 1964. The EDIT publishing house also publishes books on various topics, mainly in Italian, and produces and publishes manuals for primary and secondary Italian language schools in Croatia and Slovenia.
The digital media of the Italian community complement the media landscape
Radio Capodistria operates within the frame of the Radio and Television Public Corporation of Slovenia (RTV Slovenia) and is one of the first bilingual broadcasting stations in Europe. Launching its programmes on May 25th, 1949 under the name of Radio Trieste Yugoslav Zone, it broadcast in three languages: Slovene, Italian and Croatian. In 1979 the Slovene and Italian programmes began broadcasting on separate frequencies. Italian programmes are broadcast 24 hours a day.
Radio Fiume (Radio Rijeka) was constituted on September 16th, 1945. The radio station broadcasts three daily bulletins (at 10am, 12am, and 2pm) and one radio newscast (4pm) in Italian.
Born as a bilingual broadcast channel, Radio Fiume (nowadays a regional centre of the Croatian public radio HRT) endured strong limits on its Italian language programming for a long period of time, until the restoration of its editorial board (1974). During its long existence, the Italian editorial board has gone through some very tough moments. From an initial, almost uninterrupted, daily broadcast it has experienced a remarkable reduction in its broadcast time.
The Italian Editorial Office of Radio Pola was established on July 1st, 1968, in order to fulfil the needs of radio-production information for the members of the INC. The daily Italian programme is 40 minutes long, split into three segments: home news, international news, and regional news and activities of the Italian national community.
"Net minorities": an opportunity for all
At the Conference, Massimo Sbarbaro explained that the task of the media, particularly those of the community genre has remained the same, that is to inform and engage, and perhaps entertain. However, forms and formats have significantly changed in recent years. A paper format is no longer sufficient to support the fulfilment of the media's mission. He defines the net minority as not only people who present themselves as members of a certain ethnic community, but also people of a minority which emigrated 50 years ago or young minority of immigrants who might, today or tomorrow, move to study, work, or other reasons, because, "we cannot think that in Trieste there are the same possibilities for research as in Silicon Valley," said Sbarbaro. Today they can watch live the opening of an exhibition of paintings by an uncle who they have not seen for years, or follow that it has begun to snow in their valley of origin from Australia.
Sbarabro cited a number of examples, such as live streaming of major events (sports events, exhibitions, meetings, forums) in places that are remote or even unreachable in winter conditions, as well as apps and social media engagements. Perhaps his most touching example was the case of ancient fairy tales, registered in dialects and told by people who may be long gone. "These are tools with which to approach the language and preserve traditions,", he explained, from the experience of tales in a Slovenian dialect from Resia (http://www.dijaski.it/pravlice). Other examples: www.mismotu.it, its website and app, http://slofest.zskd.eu/, Facebook and Youtube channels, and www.whatsupcams.com, webcams and streaming.
Opportunities for minority media to revive and prosper
Sbarbaro sees higher “survival” chances in the case of minority newspapers, for various reasons. Firstly, because a newspaper of a minority is not just a newspaper like any other; it also gives a sense of recognition and belonging. This sense of recognition can be turned into a "secret weapon" of success for minority newspapers. The challenge remains to transform a paper journal, appealing to a certain, ever smaller group of people, to something palatable to the whole minority world and also for others. That is the "net minority", said Sbarabaro.
This gives a part of the answer as to how we can engage the young, both as readers and creators of newspapers and local or minority media in general. News is traditionally diffused out of newsrooms, but these days newsrooms more often respond to posts received through Facebook or another social medium by their subscribers and followers. News is no longer unidirectional, it is becoming circular. By redefining the role of the newsroom, taking account of this circularity, the "newspaper" becomes once more the reliable source you can trust.
Many young people identify with Facebook groups more than with any traditional media brands. "Just take the example of ‘Si Zamejc’", said Sbarbaro. So, being part of social media groups organised by a newspaper can be the same, but better, because it is potentially more reliable.
From the technological standpoint all seems clear. The question remains, however, of how to re-organize the work processes. Behind platforms are people. How we can recruit the right people and foster required competencies? That remains the vital question, concluded Sbarbaro.
Let's embrace synthetic thinking to integrate different approaches with best practice!
The main organiser of the Conference, Nataša Heror, made several useful references to the activities of minority media in Vojvodina and in Serbia overall, pointing out several regular activities of the Centre for Minority Media, of which she is the founder, and her own agency. Among these, joint representation of minority media in the national advertising market, the summer campaign "Pod krošnjama na štrandu", which particularly addresses the young and families, and MC Media Academy are the most successful ones. She emphasised that we should embrace an integrative way of thinking to seize the opportunities in front of us, because many of the fundamental dilemmas of minority media are not mutually exclusive. There are several ways that lead to better solutions. A "synthetic" thinking pattern actually allows for such integration between several innovative approaches and best practice. "Changes are inevitable for minority and other media alike," said Heror. The most intriguing challenge remains how to achieve the ability to integrate what we know and create new qualities.