There were many issues popping up the last few days, especially during the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup finals in Planica. At first, I didn’t give them much thought, but after suffering through more than half an hour of what was probably the most arrogant, selfcentered conversation by journalists from our most important media my indifference was gone. Here, flying high refers to both the positive and negative meanings of the phrase. This was my week.
Starting with international news I must first mention the NY Times photographers that had gone missing in Lybia. Two years ago in Perpignan at Visa pour l’Image I spoke with a Corbis editor, who looked at my Middle East photos and suggested I take a look at the work of a female photojournalist named Lynsey Addario. I did and I liked what I saw. Last year, my mentor at the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Istanbul was supposed to be a war photographer Tyler Hicks from NY Times. He couldn’t make it until the last two days, when he looked some of the portfolios, but I actually met him in person at a kebab in front of his flat in downtown Istanbul. Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks were among the missing. They have now been released. Great news.
I probably never watched as much news channels as I do now. Egypt just cools down and earthquake strikes Japan, and as Lybia starts heating up, so do the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan, and I’m glued to the TV set until two in the morning, and a few things cross my mind. Lybia first: It is very clear that Gaddafi is insane. I thought after Hitler, mentally insane leaders are a thing of the past. And I’m not talking insane like North Korea’s Kim Jong-il, but certifiably, you know, white rabbits and stuff.
Then Japan: That is what I call an armageddon. The videos were like watching 2012. But what struck me most were the people. During Katrina, New Orleans turned into a war zone. Gangs looting all over the place, every other person was armed to the teeth (of course), and I think it was one of the rare opportunities when photojournalists heading to an American town actually wore bulletproof vests like in war zones. But there was no war. It was just western culture acting up. The shit it turned into. In Japan, things are different. Their culture is based on respect, pride, rightousness and patriotism. On a whole different level of civilization, they suffered through in mourning and sadness, thinking of each other and helping each other, instead of jumping to the opportunity to loot everything in sight. I bow to these people!
What would Westerners do if one of their nuclear powerplants was as badly damaged as Fukushima? Would they stay and try to contain radiation? Or would they save their asses and ran, leaving the core to melt and destroying the country? What would you do? The Japanese culture is amazing in this respect. The scientists are still there, trying to save the reactors. Even though it is highly possible that in a week, they’ll be dead. But they have a higher purpose. In western culture it’s money and personal interests, in Japan it’s human lives. Others. Western culture has come so far as to take others as a threat, or something less than yourself, something you don’t need, something you can trample. Sad. You should all learn from the Japanese.
What and who are Slovenians proud of? It’s not the country or anything about it. It’s the athletes. You can always count on the respect of common citizens here in Slovenia if you’re an athlete, especially if you’re successful. But in the latter case, you can also expect to be screwed over financially by big companies – many of those people are usually not considered common citizens. They have different values. No real respect there. Not much respect from the media as well, but I’ll get to that later. Why athletes? Simple. A common citizen cannot do what these guys and gals do. You know, in photography, money can buy you the most expensive gear and the media will love to take your photos for free. There, you did it. In sports, you can buy ski jumping skis, but rest asure you’ll be leaving Planica in a coffin if you try jumping on the largest ski jump in the world. Sports is a seperate sphere. Common people can’t get in without a life of training, the required physical abilities etc. Everything else is blended into general population. Everybody’s a journalists, regardless of the morals (as seen in Planica), or a photographer (not the case in Planica though). And if you consider the fact that Slovenians believe they can do everything (even if they can’t), and tend to devalue, disregard, disrespect or at least downgrade the achievements, people and their work, which they think could of course do better, because they know better (always), well, then you can clearly see the problem of overlapping spheres and general access. I don’t mind new people coming in. However, I do mind these people having the attitude of knowing everything, and degrading others in the field where they honestly believe they belong now that they have bought a camera or have found time to write an article (probably with a lot of subjective elements and personal opinions). That’s why athletes are safe and respected, because people don’t have “arrogant” grounds for degrading them. They can’t share their skills, so there’s no way they can criticize them. Unless you’re a journalists in modern POP TV/SVET born Slovenia.
Size matters. Slovenia is small and like Sartre’s image of hell. With the disinterest of the world for our geographic location, we are closed behind doors in a small room, the area hardly seen on global maps. Our financial situations don’t allow us to go out into the world, so we’re stuck with each other, fighting for the little things, the only things left. We create our own hell. Hell are people around us. Our mentality has gone askew, rotten and degenerated into egotistical, immoral, relative mirror image of popular culture of disrespect (of laws, of other people, rights…). Every man for himself. So Behind Closed Doors in the Hell that is Sartre’s Slovenia, we make opposing differences to the point of deep disrespect towards others and everything about them as long as we believe they tread the same paths. Many might think I have some issues with fellow photographers now. None. They’re all great guys and don’t fall into this group! This applies to higher levels, where decisions are made, jobs created, assignements handed out, acknowledgement generated… And to what I’m about to tell you.
Amazingly, in general we don’t acknowledge great achievements. We tend to downgrade them, because in Slovenia, we don’t allow people to stand out of the avarage. Now more than ever. Where did they learn that? Through what we’re subject to on every step. The media. I think I never suffered more than in the Kranjska Gora press center during Planica finals, while I was editing my photos to send to the agency. There were journalists just behind me, talking about a great achievement of our team that same day. And when you hear their attitude, their hyperego, arrogance and spite downgrading, disrespecting, shrugging off every aspect of that achievement, it clicks. You know immediately how this country became the shit that it is.
The personal response of these guys and a woman was triggered by our team coach’s statement on TV that there was a lot of negative reports in the media all throughout the year. Which is true. But now these three to four “journalists” from the most important Slovenian media (and the main agency) felt threatened and offended (their ego just won’t stand for that shit). So they first started sharing their disrespective, highly oppositional and antagonistic opinions on the achievements that, in their opinion, are nothing. They’re not achievements at all. Third place in team and you (the coach) think it’s all right after you failed to have even two ski jumpers in the finals of smaller ski jumps in Oslo? Pf! (I hope you can imagine the arrogance.) At this point I shook my head, turned around a few times, but they haven’t noticed. Then they went on to discuss how the athletes should train, how they should tackle the problems, how they should think. And I almost turned around and asked the woman (about five years younger then me) how many years has she been training ski jumping. You know, and he praises his team and yada yada yada, whatever. (Yes, disrespect down to a single sentence or word.) Finally, they arrive at a topic that almost made me blow my lid.
They discussed the relationship between journalists and athletes. And these were their points: Why would bad reporting about them influence the athletes’ morals? Are you that weak? Why are they reading newspapers at all? Do they? They don’t read them! Their coach feeds them with negative opinions about us. Their coach tells them everything we write. If you read the bad things we write, it’s your problem. Robi (Kranjec) doesn’t read our stuff! His wife feeds it to him! It’s her fault! And stop complaining about bad titles that misrepresent the truth! You have to write it like that, so that anybody reads it. (At this point, I was holding the cable of my card reader, ready to strangle the woman. My tongue was bleeding from biting it for over ten minutes.) And that Tina Maze, damn! What the hell, that Maze – Massi duo’s really bad. She even reads the comments below the articles! … And so it went on and on and on. In my opininon it is very sad that athletes whose personal lives and behind the scenes problems should not be of any concert to others, because it does not influence life in this country, can’t read articles about sports, because journalist continually write negatively about them. The negativism of those journalists was pouring out of them. And all that time imagine the arrogant attitude as if shrugging them all off as something less than them, the mighty journalists. I was about to explode, my core was melting, and I didn’t even have Nina with me that day to cool me down. I started commenting their shit to myself, but half out loud. They still didn’t get it. Instead, they unnerved a fourth journalist by fooling him that coach’s statement about negative reporting in the last year was meant for him directly, and what followed was basically the climax of this story, his exclamation of the words: “Oh, he’s dead! And Kranjec, too!” Rushed to his laptop and started wildly typing his editorial commentary. So, is this the state of our media? Fuck objectivity? It’s all for my egotripping? It’s all for showing off my intelect? Fuck other people? Screw the consequences? Fuck their integrity? Even in the media that I thought so far have normal professional standards. Have we really fallen this low?
How degenerated we are that we seem to misinterpret every professional standard through our own overblown egos? I can’t help to suspect this came out of the famous “fourth branch of government” role of journalism. Of government, idiots! Not sports! It is completely unimportant why there are downs in our athletes’ form. It’s normal flow! Eeverybody has ups and downs. In this case, it doesn’t influence the citizens of our country, you know! Kapish! Registered? There’s no public interest in the bad relationships and what’s all wrong in our team. If there is, because a lot of it are just stupid assumptions. Report on the results, praise them if they’re good, and just report on them if they’re avarage, try, just fucking try and say one sentence for once: hopefully we,ll see them in the final round at the next competition. Ha? Is that so bad? And rather try saying a bit more about the atmosphere, the weather’s role in carrying out a race, how the favorites did etc. Instead of analyzing performance of our athletes through negative prism. Stop degrading every achievement by trying to expose some bad shit that’s going on behind the scenes, and stop making everything so damn political! It’s sports!! Do that in politics. That’s where you should do it! What’s important is the race! The race! Instead, I read an article on the front page, reporting on the second place of Robi Kranjec, and our team members are interviewed – only our team members, no Austrians, nobody else (closed doors, Sartre’s Hell, fuck it), and in the same paragraph that mentions the achievement, all that’s wrong is listed as well and in more words (of course). Which devalues that second place. Nice. Great journalism.
There’s a few photojournalistic issues that came up as well. I kept saying that whatever I do won’t count much, because other relations instead of quality matter more. Most of my supporters didn’t believe it, in a way I hoped they’re right. After Slovenia Press Photo I sort of looked away, because I achieved my own personal goal of coming up to the level I wanted, before I go even further. Soon other photographers started telling me that they think it’s quite unfair of the media to be emphasizing and exposing only the work of the photographer who won overall best single photo. To be honest, Matej is a great guy and I’m happy for him, it doesn’t bother me at all, but it does say a lot about our media. The photographers themselves recognized the issue. Apart from an important photo he won with, he works for a major newspaper and people know him. That’s it. Not many know me professionally or personally so even three prizes, which has never happened before, don’t make much of a reason to expose me instead of Matej. But that’s so stupid to think about. Exposure would help me a lot, yes, by people knowing about me, it could result in more work – paid. But probably in a different country, not Slovenia. However, that’s not the main issue. Remember the post about photos being unimportant if they’re not widely published?
Well, it turns out it applies to photographers as well. Again, it’s not an issue between photojournalists themselves, but people further up. Some just don’t accept and respect photojournalists who don’t work for a major media. Regardless of the fact that there are no more jobs for them in major media. So they do their stuff with quality away from these big shots, and then they happen to win at a competition like Slovenia Press Photo (I’m not talking about myself here!). It’s an indicator of our situation in photojournalism when that quality is not acknowledged by those people even if it is acknowledged by the international photo editor at Time Magazine. Instead, we hear the defensive criticizm of selecting too many BW images, or specifically in this case, too many stories from abroad. Now let’s see, how many were there? My overall story was from Istanbul, the other two from Slovenia. Other winning stories and single images were from Slovenia. So where is that argument grounded then? Think about it. The closed doors. Sartre. Hell.
Let’s now return to Planica, the event that used to be a disgrace, because of such excessive drinking. For at least two years now, it’s been surprisingly civilized, a lot less drunken people. It is now quite nice to come to Planica and I like it a lot. So some things can change. Hopefully, others will as well. The funny thing about Planica hasn’t changed, though. The Scandinavians. 😀 They simply drink their brains out. And when we ask ourselves why, we again stumble upon Slovenian culture. In Norway for example, alcohol is extremely expensive. Everything for that matter. And when they come here, they really go at it. Go all out. In Slovenia, alcoholic drinks are cheaper than non-alcohoic. Heavy drinking in Slovenia is not only allowed and generally accepted, but in many ways encouraged. Driving to Planica, every 100 m along the road, a house or something was adorned with red and green posters promoting our two brands of beer. And some posters for wines. Only one house had a poster for bottled water. Nothing much is sacred in this country. I was taught using children in marketing is unaccepted. Well, here, children in commercials read shopping mall catalogues, they change car tires, feed their dogs, do housework, wash etc. They do just about everything. Which in my book is another case of lax morals, but that’s a new story of Slovenia. One of many. Too many. Sad.
UPDATE: Having seen new examples of the same disrespective attitude towards other people following this post, and having seen that we have obviously forgotten the staples of professional journalism, because we were submitted to watching Svet or 24ur, reading Nova or Lady for too long, I decided to refresh everyone’s memory. These are extracts from a conversation on Facebook.
We seem to have forgotten the basic rules. A journalist’s reporting is supposed to be objective, reporting on facts. OK, how is luck a fact? Can it be measured? Can it be proved? Can you show it to me? How is saying that there would be no achievement in the final round a fact? Can you see the future? Predict it? Can you show it to me? Can you show me the results after that supposed final round? No? Well, then it’s not a fact.
Misleading article headlines: Misleading information in professional journalism is next to a crime. In Slovenia, it is common practice.
Personal opinions in articles are a sign of bad reporting, and should be condemned by editors. In Slovenia, it is not.
There’s also a thing called selection of information and distribution. If you write one sentence about the achievement and two paragraphs about all that is wrong, you just made the achievement seem unimportant and let everybody know that you favor the things that are wrong. The degraded image of the jumpers and achievement is also the overall message of the article. Again, not unprofessional, but a sign of personal preferences. Or preferences of the modern media.
in that respect, how would people, who care about results and support our athletes, encourage them etc, feel, if the commentator in Planica after that 2nd place said: Calm down, people, it was just luck!
My point here is not about sports, but also about the disrespectful attitude of journalists. That’s the problem.
OH, and to be reporting about the negative things, in professional journalism, you need strong public interest, like in politics. So tell, me. How much does knowing about the problems in our team affect the lives of common citizen whom journalists serve? Will people lose jobs? Have smaller wages? Do they have to decide, who to vote? There’s no public interest in the drama behind the scenes, is it? It’s unimportant. The results are! You said it yourself. And if there are no results, well, there will be next time. Hopefully. No need to kick somebody when they’re down, if it is unneccessary. If it doesn’t serve anybody, right? Well, maybe just the author of the article.
On subjective reporting that you can see in our media. Yes, you do. Not only in genres that allow it nowadays. Unfortunatelly.
Columns, editorial opinions, reportage in a small amount, portraits (of a person) – those are genres allow subjective writing. Others don’t.
And of course people don’t want just results and that’s it. They want to read about how the race went, who went out, who lead after first round, what was going on in the venue, who was there to see the race, how many, what was the atmosphere, how did they cope with wind etc. My point is, and I AM WRITING ALL THIS FROM WHAT THEY TEACH YOU AT THE FACULTY (JOURNALISM), that there is no need to bring up (esp in such quantities) the negative sides of our team, of whom all those fans and the entire country is proud of.
And my other point was the disrespect of these people towards people they don’t even know. Basically, you can see what I mean in Miha’s example. They assume about a person through a misinterpretation of inadequate information about their work. Which as they teach you as well, is also bad. A journalists should write no assumptions. Facts. Checked facts.
And on the specific example of the results of our team. Who are we to say they don’t try hard? Who are we to say that after all that effort, their achievement is just luck? Who are we, and what is the purpose of destroying the value of an achievement? As journalists, does that kind of reporting serve anything but pumping our egos?
The argument is that our coach is making excuses to make it look like everything is alright. Well, first of all, everybody knows it is not that alright, but it has been worse and it has been better, and truth be told, it’s not that bad at all. However, we seem to have great expectations for a country that financially has 90% less chances of being great than Austrians, and only personal strength makes us as great as we are. And that is why bad reporting is also so damaging. I know they’re making excuses and that the results are not good. We can all see it. The problem is that we are writing it as if out of spite and disrespect not towards the coaches, but the athletes. Why emphasizing this negativity? And why should athletes’s achievements be downgraded? Because we know the season is bad? Or because we think the season is bad, because we forgot about a few years back, when it was worse? Well, everybody can see and judge for themselves without arrogant journalists writing it in bold letters and calling every achievement a strike of luck! It’s not about how they behave and how bad really is. It’s sports! And it’s all about reporting and the reporting is too negative, but not in a truthful and balanced way! It is strongly tilted to the negative side, making achievements unimportant, and this whole thing less valuable. And it is too subjective. Calling a 2nd place luck is just that! It’s disrespect coming from personal egotistical tendencies. That’s all. No greater purpose in this negativity.
That’s all. I know I should get over it now, this is the modern journalism, but you know what, less and less people read papers in this country. And it’s not because of these articles, but it’s definitely because of such negative attitude coming out overall in reporting. Unfortunately, everybody’s to defensive to admit that it’s not right. In fact, everybody nowadays believe that we have to bash everything. Hell, I do it all the time as well, but when there is something to praise, I do it. And I don’t search for negative things. I was the strongest critic of Planica’s drinking etc. Look at me now. I admit, Planica has become normal and a joy to visit. See, it’s not so difficult. Try it sometimes.