Macedonia Media and Press Freedom: Q&A with Dragan Sekulovski

December 22, 2014

By Kai Prager, Senior Media Relations Specialist, Business Wire

If you visit Skopje, Macedonia today, you will be surprised. The central spots in Macedonia’s capital are crawling with enormous fountains, museums and bridges laced with statues over the Vardar River (which divides the city in two parts). Wondering when they might have been built, I learned that they were all quite new, produced within the last 10 years. The construction of these monuments is part of the project Skopje 2014 — the idea being to enhance a city that was severely damaged by an earthquake in 1963. However, the project is controversial, not only due to its high costs, but also because it is viewed as nationalistic historicist kitsch by many Macedonians.

Macedonian media can also be viewed as new and somewhat controversial.  Most publications were first published after the declaration of independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Under the promise of a free press, newspapers and magazines were printed and new broadcasters took to the air. But today, there is not much left of that free press. In 2009, Macedonia was ranked 34th on Press Freedom Index (by Reporters Without Borders). Five years later, it has dropped down to number 123.

A Man, Staning On A Bridge, Thinking About His Ex

(Skopje, Macedonia – Photo by Kai Prager)

When I visited the South East European Media Forum in Skopje this year, I had the chance to speak with Dragan Sekulovski, who works as Executive Director at the Association Of Journalists Of Macedonia.  He kindly agreed to answer some of the questions I had about the media in his country and about the aforementioned drop on the Press Freedom Index.

What caused Macedonia’s fall on the Press Freedom Index?

Unfortunately, Macedonia is setting new records with a drop down of 89 places in less than 5 years on the Reporters Without Border’s Press Freedom Index. The main difference in the media back in 2009 and now is the level of criticism of the journalists and the media. Nowadays there is almost no critique in the mainstream media towards the ruling parties and the governmental reforms. In a society where the politicians are not able to stand a critique and where critical media are shut down, journalists are imprisoned for writing a text. The government is the biggest advertiser in the private media and journalists are sued by officials … we cannot expect, with all this, for Macedonia to have a better place on the Press Freedom Index.

Dragan Sekulovski big(Dragan Sekulovski)

 The media market in Macedonia is small. Does this also have an effect on the media landscape?

Macedonia has almost 200 media outlets and they all compete in a small, distorted market and cover about 2 million citizens. They cannot survive financially unless they align their interests with the governing parties and politically connected large businesses. Apart from the public broadcaster (MTV), the vast majority of the country’s press is in private hands. However, the government comes out on top among the 50 largest advertisers in the country. In 2012 and in 2013, the government was in first place with twice as many campaigns in the private media than the larger local mobile operator T-Mobile. You cannot expect to have a free media market when there is so much influence by the government.

Other countries in the region (Montenegro, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, etc.) have a small media market as well. Do you think they have similar problems?

I would not say that the problems are similar since the pressure points that are creating chilling effects and self-censorship in Macedonia are far more drastic than in neighboring countries. Two recent cases illustrate this negative trend:  the first one is the case of Kezarovski, a journalist who in 2008 wrote a text and published in local small print media. In 2013, he was arrested and convicted for alleged reveling identity of a secret witness, and at the moment, he is more than 18 months detained waiting for the final word of the Appeal Court in Skopje. The second case, as of this autumn, is about a court verdict for defamation where the plaintiff is the Director of the Secret Service and the defendants are [the] editor and journalists from the local printed weekly Fokus. The court here judged a compensation of non-pecuniary damage in amount of 9000 EUR, including court expenses, for the editor and the journalists of Fokus to pay. These negative examples that influence the freedom of expression and independence of media are unique for this part of the world.

How does the move to digital media (internet, mobile devices, social media, etc.) change the media landscape?

Following the global trend, the online media in Macedonia are becoming more influential and are being followed by large percentage of the audience. Based on the assessments of the regulator, 44% of the audience is being informed on a daily basis from web portals. These media can offer some criticism, media pluralism is generally present, and some investigative journalistic stories can be found.

What sources do Macedonian journalists usually use to access information?

Mainly from press conferences and releases from the state media agencies. Interesting to note is that journalistic questions are rarely present during a press conference. Some journalists are using the Law on Access to Information of Public Character, but the information is not always satisfactorily received or delivered in the desirable time frame.

Which information or topics are the most popular in the media?

News and propaganda that promote governmental policy and reforms; chronicles; news about celebrities; critiques of opposition political parties and civil society organizations/individuals; and global news. Very rarely we can see in the mainstream media TV debates from guests which are having different opinion[s] of governmental policy.


The Sweet 16: Business Wire’s Most Read, Viewed and Shared Content of 2014

December 16, 2014

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social and Evolving Content

Are You Ready for PR in 2015?  

As 2014 winds down, we at Business Wire are taking one last look backwards.  After all, there were some huge changes in 2014 that disrupted the way news content was showcased, distributed and adopted.

As we look towards a PR-friendly new year, we wanted to share the articles, videos and blog posts that your communication colleagues turned to this year so we can help you launch successful communications program in 2015!

How to write a press release:

The real reasons why your press releases need to include images:

Understanding media relations:

The role of measurement in PR

How Business Wire generates success for large and small companies alike [CASE STUDIES]

What are we missing?  What tips or tools do you plan on implementing in 2015?  Let us know in the comment box below.


With press release editing, catch erors befor they hapen

December 1, 2014

By Luke O’Neill, Editor, Business Wire Boston

We’ve heard it many times here at Business Wire: We catch a typo in a press release, let the client know, then the voice on the other end of the phone stalls, then sighs, “You don’t know how many people have looked at this thing, and that wasn’t caught.”

yay-6559046-digital

That exasperation can be and should be avoided – especially before the release hits the wire and Web. Mistakes, alas, are inevitable, but it’s important to guard against them before they happen. After sending out a press release, the focus should be on promoting your news, not fixing it.

The editing process of any document can be cluttered at times with too many cooks in the kitchen, too many rewrites, and tracked changes simply can be confounding. Plus, don’t edit just for the sake of editing. Sometimes the writer has it right.

At newspapers or websites, editors generally read stories three times and three different ways – have you tried these yet?

  1. Breeze through it initially to get a sense of the story – it’s helpful to literally sit on your hands during this process so you’re not tempted to edit.
  2. The heavy lifting: Rewrite, rework and restructure the story as necessary.
  3. Fine-tune: Polish the prose and clean up typos.

The step between 1 and 2 can be tricky – you need to know how the story needs to be reworked, but that usually comes with practice and experience. This blog, however, is more focused on step 3 – finding those minute mistakes before they become major mistakes.

Eradicating Errors

So how do you sidestep slip ups while editing press releases? Most editors anticipate problems before they occur, know where things could go wrong before they do, ask where things could go wrong and think of the consequences of their editing actions. Yet sometimes it just comes down to having an eagle eye.

yay-3433113-digitalAlso, be mindful that the absence of one lone letter or the transposition of a couple letters changes the meaning of a word, and spellcheck won’t necessarily pick it up.

For example, heath vs. health: A heath is one thing, and health is something different. United vs. untied – these two words clearly have very different meanings. Other common press release examples include: manager vs. manger, complimentary vs. complementary, premiere vs. premier, chief vs. chef and through vs. though.

And be sure to check your spellcheck carefully; don’t just breeze through it because the document may be teeming with tech or biotech words. Often, Spellcheck will flag a word it does not recognize, yet the word is spelled correctly. Then later in the document, Spellcheck will flag a similarly spelled word, but it’s off by one letter. If an editor is on Spellcheck “Ignore All” autopilot, then the misspelled word will fly under the radar.

These spelling discrepancies are especially problematic in business press releases with mismatching company and product names.

‘Confident paranoia’

Many press releases simply could use a healthy dose of preventative medicine – an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

yay-1578342-digitalIn my local newsroom, we track the time spent on each correction issued by our clients. In my office, we average about 12 client corrections a month. During high-volume times, that correction total can spike. The corrections can be costly to our clients and counterproductive for everyone.

Some press release corrections are more significant and easily avoidable than others. Some common culprits include: incorrect event dates in releases; incorrect media contact information, especially phone numbers; incorrect titles for people; incorrect press release submitted; and not getting the proper approvals from all the companies involved in the release. But perhaps the most frequent offender is a broken or incorrect embedded hyperlink.

At Business Wire Boston, we preach the idea of “confident paranoia.” Be confident in your editing abilities, but, like a good carpenter, measure twice and cut once.

Luke O’Neill, formerly a newspaper reporter and copy editor, is a senior editor at Business Wire Boston. He has nearly 15 years of communications experience and a master’s degree in journalism.


How to Craft an Editorial Calendar

November 20, 2014

Several times a year, Business Wire’s Serena Ehrlich presents at TechMUNCH, the nation’s leading food blogger conference, on the topic of how to craft a successful editorial calendar.  If you haven’t had a chance to read this piece, check it out here: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/article/20140926200156-1308357-blogger-pr-tip-of-the-day-why-you-need-an-editorial-calendar

In this article, Serena outlines why you should create and use an editorial calendar, various elements that affect the calendar, and how you can use events such as movie premieres, elections, breaking news, and more, to deepen the affinity between your blog and your readers.


Case Study! Increase Sales by Using Press Release to Promote Branded Content

November 16, 2014

Many of our clients are using press releases to not only promote breaking company news, but also to promote breaking company content.  In this case study, we speak with Jerry Goldstein, VP of William Mills Agency, to discuss how they used one press release to promote a white paper with spectacular success.  Results include WSJ coverage, social sharing, inbound traffic, and downloads by the company’s top prospects.

Are you using press releases to promote your content?  If not, read this piece today.  It will change the way you think of content distribution.

http://www.prnewsonline.com/featured/2014/10/15/william-mills-agency-increases-awareness-and-b2b-sales-with-content-distribution/


PR Professionals Rejoice! Business Wire and ITDatabase Launch TechCalendar

November 12, 2014

Earlier today Business Wire and ITDatabase announced the launch of TechCalendar, the industry’s most comprehensive, searchable, directory of tech events, speaking opportunities and awards.

TechCalendar takes the tens of thousands of consumer and enterprise focused tech industry events, awards and speaking opportunities and places them into one easy to search database. This single database provides PR professionals the ability to easily search, find and act upon highly relevant promotional opportunities.

Updated continuously, TechCalendar features a number of options for tech companies to track events important to their brand including:
  • Easy event and award discovery by keyword, topic or organizer
  • One-click “following” of all relevant events and awards, as well as show organizers
  • Calendar creation and integration opportunities
  • A variety of sharing and exporting tools for easy data integration

Click here to sign up for your free trial today.

 


New FREE Service, Expert Latinos, Helps Connect Hispanic Reporters with Sources

September 23, 2014

In an age where Hispanic media outlets are understaffed and reporters are on tight deadlines—in comes a new free service called Expert Latinos. Expert Latinos was created to help Hispanic reporters find sources and experts for their stories, saving them time and energy.

The way it works is very simple. Basically the reporter fills out a quick form directly on the website (ExpertLatinos.com) detailing what they are looking for. The request is then sent via a daily email to the list of subscribers, which consists of experts, entrepreneurs, public relation professionals and much more.  As a subscriber, if you see a story in which you can contribute to, you then simply reply directly to the reporter via email.

ExpertLatinos

Launched in April 2014, Expert Latinos has quickly become the go-to-source for Hispanic media outlets looking to quickly identify experts and sources. Among the media outlets already using Expert Latinos includes reporters and writers for: Univision, Telemundo, La Opinion, EFE America, Yahoo! Mujer, Vista Magazine, El Diario/La Prensa…the list goes on and on.

Reporters are submitting queries for just about anything from “I’m working on a story on the future of Spanish in the U.S. and need an expert in linguistics” to “I’m currently working on an article and need to interview entrepreneurs to talk about the best tools to grow their business.” Best of all, it’s completely free for reporters and sources alike.

So if you’re a source or expert and are looking to promote your business and get free exposure you can sign up here. Stay on top of the daily email alerts because you never know when something might come up where you might be the perfect fit. Simply reply back to the reporter via the email they provided.

If you’re a journalist and are looking for an expert or source for an upcoming story you can start submitting your request here. Reporters can also chose to send their queries anonymously, in which case their outlet and email will not be disclosed.  Expert Latinos will then receive the responses and forward them to the reporter.

So what are you waiting for?  Sign up today!


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