Working conditions for Macedonian journalists are bad; this topic has already been absolved. But the working conditions for Macedonian correspondents can be described with only one word – impossible! It is simply impossible to provide good, quality, professional work if you are reduced to status of a hireling drifting between media outlets. And all this, in most cases, is part-time, which is euphemism for illegal work.
Written by: Tamara Causidis
What do you think, how free, brave, and without compromises can be the work of a journalist receiving a monthly pay of MKD 4.000 (USD 84 or EUR 65)? What do you think about the degree of pride and dignity of that journalist, who is forced to “return” MKD 1.700 (USD 36 or EUR 26) out of that sum to the owner of his local media, because the journalist sent news to a national outlet by using a camera and footage from the local one? Because the local owner owns both the camera, the footage and the cameraman, but also the souls and dignity of his employees.
Have you considered the quality of the work of a journalist who is forced to produce eight news items during a single day so he can earn a minimal pay? How many times can this person check the facts, how fast can he prepare his material when in one day s/he has to cover government subsidies, illegal construction and a film festival?
Does this photo-robot of a Macedonian correspondent from the interior shock you? You did not know or you did not want to know? On the other hand, many people keep criticizing the quality of the news items, and the quality of journalism in Macedonia.
Working conditions for Macedonian journalists are bad; this topic has already been absolved. But the working conditions for Macedonian correspondents can be described with only one word – impossible! It is simply impossible to provide good, quality, professional work if you are reduced to status of a hireling drifting between media outlets. And all this, in most cases, is part-time, which is euphemism for illegal work. Without a contract, without pension benefits, without any kind of guarantee against receiving an e-mail or telephone message, informing you that your services are no longer required.
You are no longer required because the media you work for decided to save money, so they start from your meager honoraria. You may be no longer needed because a local strongman did not like your reporting, or because some ambitious unknown person who treats journalism as a hobby decided to offer more and cheaper contents. The reasons can vary, but the outcome is always the same.
Losing a job, even when expected and announced in advance, is a terrible stress. Some people compare it with stress from losing a loved one. Even the law stipulates a lengthy procedure that must be implemented with termination of working relationship. People need time to adapt, to deal with the new situation. And they require all this under conditions of regular employment. When regular employment is lacking, than journalists they live with this stress every day. And have to work with this level of stress. But, the problem with journalists is that their work is not mechanical, it cannot be automated, they create, they witness, and they serve as the eyes, the ears and the voice of the public. Have you wondered why that voice is incapacitated? And sometimes hysterical? Listen to the journalists talking about their working conditions and you’ll wonder no more.
Listen to the correspondents, give voice to those people who know the ground better than any of the great names of journalism from Skopje. The correspondents know all about the strongmen and grey eminences (éminence grise) in their local communities, they know where the information is coming from and where to look for it, if they can only do their job with dignity, with decent salaries and without ever-present fear of joblessness. Only in this way, instead of narrowed and disoriented, Macedonia may receive informed and articulated journalistic voice from the interior.
This column was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project - Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The column is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).