AthensLive is a new and ambitious initiative in Greek media. It is a collaboration between Greek and international journalists, including the visual journalists of FOSPHOTOS, offering an alternative to a corporate-owned and bound to established political interests Greek press. AthensLive provides English-language reporting, analysis, and commentary on the situation from Athens and throughout Greece. Independent and crowdfunded, their work will be accountable to their supporters and no one else.
As the members of the AthensLive team say, “totally detached from any mainstream media organization, we aim to make one with a model that lets journalists do excellent work on projects they care about and be compensated fairly for it. Our goal is to build a platform for high quality daily content. More than that, we want to create a hub for independent journalism in downtown Athens. From university students to our crowdfunded European colleagues, AthensLive is part of a wider plan for a collaborative space that could revolutionize the way news is reported in both Greece and abroad. This can only happen if we meet our initial crowdfunding goal”.
We at AnalyzeGreece welcome this new initiative, and wish the team the best of luck, especially as we consider extremely important the creation of truly independent media, with a critical standpoint and timely information, in search of a new model for journalism and expression.
Despina Biri from AnalyzeGreece spoke to some members of the AthensLive team (Yiannis Baboulias, Gerasimos Domenikos, Yiannis Drakoulidis, Elvira Krithari, Tassos Morfis, Sotiris Sideris) about their initiative, among many other things.
You can support the initiative here, offering any amount you wish.
Interview with Y. Baboulias, G. Domenikos Y. Drakoulidis, E.Krithari, T. Morfis, S. Sideris
Why did you decide to set up AthensLive? What are you hoping to achieve?
We decided to create AthensLive because as media professionals, working in the mainstream Greek media is a dead end. Additionally, we think that there is a story beyond what is commonly reported that needs to be told both for Greeks and people abroad. Mainstream media haven’t covered it in the best way possible.
We hope to build an independent and ad-free platform with unique journalist pieces, data journalism, videos, investigations, and to participate in a European network of independent journalism project. Eventually, we want to build a hub for these projects to collaborate in downtown Athens. We want to show to everyone that being successful is a matter of collective will and community support, rather than corporate will and political support.
Our funding model, something familiar in much of the world but novel in Greece, allows us to be accountable to our readers and no one else. Crowdfunded and subscription-sustained, our survival is not dependent on remaining useful as political tools or to corporate interests.
While this is not a panacea, they hope that providing a sustainable alternative to traditional news outlets will inspire change in a widely corrupt media landscape. AthensLive can be a model for independence and accountability in a field which lacks both in spades.
You describe your initiative as an independent and on-the-ground. What do you mean with these terms?
Being independent means that we do not share any interests with any political or entrepreneurial groups. We are not backed up by any political parties or corporations. Being independent basically means, as we say on our campaign video, that we want to be totally detached from Greece’s media and advertising complex. This kind of involvement that we are avoiding is a huge problem for other outlets because they are sustained by media-shops, ads, and loans from almost bankrupt banks.
When we say we are “on-the-ground,” we mean that we are here, we see and document incidents with our own eyes and cameras, and we report directly. This is a quality that foreign press, the only real alternative to Greek mainstream media, cannot match.
The combination of “independent” and “on-the-ground” will definitely be a key factor of our success!
Who is your team made up of? Do you think it’s important for the AthensLive team to share a common visio
We do share a common vision. We all want to change the way media works in Greece and decided to start AthensLive because of this. We are young and we live in Athens, so we experience the Greek crisis firsthand. Some of us still live with our parents, others have been unemployed or broke for a long time. Most of us used to work for mainstream media under pretty lousy conditions. We question the ethics and quality of Greek journalism and this is why we want to tell the story our own way: independently, professionally, and objectively.
This vision unifies the team. Some of us have different point of views, but this raises our creativity. All the same, our common vision inspires common passion. That is what AthensLive is all about. We want to communicate our passion to people and this is why we ask for their support. If we achieve that, to #MakeAthensLive, quality journalism is guaranteed.
Αre there any other initiatives and projects, especially abroad, that inspire you and motivated you to create AthensLive?
AthensLive could have never existed without the help from our network of collaborators in Europe, namely Krautreporter in Germany, Direkt36 in Hungary, Zetland in Denmark, Casa Jurnalistului in Romania, and Blank Spot in Sweden. Their work inspires us to be more creative and provides a great model for how to do quality independent journalism.
Eric Jarosinski, who goes by the pseudonym NeinQuarterly, is another great source of inspiration and encouragement, replying our DMs and retweeting AthensLive daily. Eric was touring Europe last summer in the midst of the Greek referendum. We spoke with him and he really motivated us to start a crowdfunding campaign in order to back our project. He also brought us into contact with Sebastian Esser from Krautreporter.
You recently launched a crowdfunding campaign for AthensLive. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Crowdfunding is an important part of our model. We want our project to belong to our readers as much as it belongs to us. We think of our readers as people who embrace the effort as members of a new media community and not as simply our readers.
Also we are a young and relatively unknown team. Crowdfunding, apart from being the vehicle to get the project running the way we want, is also a way for us to put the work we have been producing this last year to the test. When people back us, we know we have been producing something they want to see more of.
In a much broader sense, we believe that only a direct engagement with the public sphere will allow the media to reclaim their role within society.
What's your assessment of the situation the Greek media landscape is in currently?
The problem with the Greek media is that they are not based on any financially viable model. They never were. This is no surprise when their primary purpose is to further political or corporate interests, not necessarily profit based on their journalistic efforts in and of themselves. Even if this was not always the case for each outlet, in order to stay afloat, they have become editorially compromised as well. The situation is dire to say the least.
A new media law has been in force since last October. How do you think this affects the media landscape, particularly new initiatives such as yours?
After decades of delay, Greece has finally drafted a new law that restricts the licenses of the private television channels, establishes an independent regulatory authority board, along with a number of other things. Still, we don’t know how this law will affect ventures like ours. It is intended to distribute equally state advertising, which is something we aren’t interested in, and deal with issues like copyrights and plagiarism. However we only produce unique, original content so that’s also not a concern.
Fundamentally, we believe that it is the internet and labor relations that will change the face of journalism. In Greece, websites' employees, in a plethora of cases, work long shifts without any insurance benefits. If they work as freelancers, they are required to make huge contributions to their pension funds that eventually makes their work unprofitable. The largest press unions don’t represent freelance journalists so it is as if they were invisible.
In the new draft bill, the government intends to make a record of online media enterprises, but that isn’t something that will bring groundbreaking change where it counts the most. That’s why we decided to build AthensLive. Our business plan itself illustrates our doubts about the existing paradigm.
Despite the ominous financial situation in the country, we want to create a cooperative that provides decent work condition. While Greek websites struggle to thrive based on an exploitative model, we plan to create quality content with a sustainable model that is fundamentally ethical. Our community of supporters and collaborators expect nothing less.