When, on the other hand, I would be asked — why? — I’d say: be- cause they come from exactly the same region. Thus, the interests and problems of their readers — are their interests and problems too. The same goes with their struggles, cravings, strengths, and weaknesses. As simple as that. But — as usual — there’s more to this than meets the eye. Let us see…
Are the regional media anyhow important? May- be this is only my very own, narrow-minded point of view and my trying to find similar opinions may soon encounter difficulties. Or quite opposite attitudes. After all, what a journalist of Warmia-Masuria region believes — a journalist form a regional paper in Spain or Portugal may not follow directly. They may even be of an contrary opinion whatsoever…
“The regional media are important because they tell our stories, live in our world — the actual world outside our windows. They under- stand society’s problems, challenges and needs. They share them. There is an idiomatic expression in Poland: a shirt is closer to the body. So local media is about this closeness and about the idiom, too,” says Jorge Gimeno Pawłowski of Atland Consulting.
“Local information is an essential tool for citizens in their daily lives. It is the key factor for decision making and for the analysis of the socio-economic context in which they operate daily,” admits Adela Sánchez of the Spanish El Diario Montañés.
“The issue of the proximity of the news to the reader is, without a doubt, the greatest importance for a regional newspaper. It is useless to repeat the themes of national nature, when, in reality, what matters are the issues of our community,” adds Artur Bacelar, a journalist of Jornal Maia Hoje, from Maia, Portugal.
“Of course they are! For local communities, they are even more important than national media. After all, we write about people close to us, about their work, inte- rests, also searches and problems. We look closely at local authorities’ hands and praise them for their work when necessary. We also hold them accountable for their plans and promises,” says Jarosław Tokarczyk, the President of Grupa WM.
Thankfully, there are journalists, and even more importantly — people — who think exactly the same as I do. And true: one of the so many Polish proverbs says exactly that a shirt is much closer to the body of a than a coat. Because it is.
But after a while of self-satisfaction and pure gladness, a natural — at least for me — question came. “Why are the regional media important?” And “how?” echoed immediately as in my opinion a true and impartial ex- planation is always useful in any pondering.
So — why and how? What’s the regional media’s main role or roles?
“How could a local person know that, outside their home, there is something they have been looking for for a long time? Was it a national newspaper theme? Of course not, but the local newspaper will certainly have the news,” says Artur Bacelar — or asks rhetorically to be more specific.
“Regional media have a strong commitment to the territory in which they ope- rate, contributing with objectivity and transparency to improve the quality of life of citizens. They also develop other important functions: they highlight the strengths of the territory in which they operate; they give visibility to actions that benefit the community; they work in close cooperation with the social and business factories; from time to time they are critical of those aspects that are not positive for their territory; they defend democratic values and transparency; and, last but not least — they provide citizens with plural information so that they can form their own criteria,” enumerates Adela Sánchez.
“Because the regional media are the voice of the society, bringing structure to our everyday life. They keep citizens informed but at the same time they organise and promote a whole group of different initiatives. Events, workshops, work with children, education, charities and many others. Thanks to regional media our cities and regions have a stronger roots and our societies develop better,” as Jorge Gimeno Pawłowski sums up.
“The regional and local press is also the first and natural platform for advertising goods and services, sometimes targeted specifically at the inhabitants of our region. And if to advertise — also to search for: customers, sellers, contractors. Then, all these cooperating modes build strength, brand and financial security of the inhabitants, including those who create regional media,” Jarosław Tokarczyk admits.
Let us all not forget that media are — and they always should be — a platform to advertise. And by this I mean both the commercial ads that a manufacturer or a company owner buys in the media to let more and more people know their unique goods or extra- ordinary craft — and thus to gain a reasonably huge customers’ society. But there is a kind of a hidden advertisement in almost everything we write regionally. Do we interview an elderly woman who has just sewn a thousand of face masks to support the citizens of her region in the face (yes!) of pandemic? Yes, we’re advertising her masks as well as her sewing skills. Do we write about a newly open restaurant that as one and only serves home-made regional cakes and cookies? Whether we ask about the motivation of the owner and chef to open a place like this, whether we question their family traditions or plans for the future — we advertise that particular restaurant even if we do not give our readers the restaurant’s specifics and coordinates. Our readers are just wise enough and they’ll find the details themselves. And they’ll go — just out if pure curiosity to check whether the regional cuisine is really that good; and they’ll spread the news among their relatives and friends; and they’ll advertise furthermore what we had written in a neat interview with a local entrepreneur who once had a bright idea.
And that’s good!
In terms of advertising our regional newspapers offer as much as in terms of news and regional issues. Especially because, just for a good start, regional newspapers have a huge bulk of opportunities. Their daily delivery offers frequency opportunity. Then goes the selectivity — the geo- graphic and in terms of some special interests. Our papers reach well-educated audience and offer wide range of edito- rial material aimed at a bro- ad audience. They’re much flexible in ad sizes. And with the pass-along audience in household, the still quite reasonable credibility of print in general, portability and the fact that people read at leisure — regional newspapers’ advertising position seem both unmatched and of great value for all of us.
Rethinking regional media
Should we look back from time to time and consider what’s changed? What has improved and what — dec- lined? What lessons have we learnt? What surprised us and why hadn’t we been prepared? How has this importance evolved through last few decades? Has it increased — or quite the opposite?
After all a good observer is a good planner.
“In my opinion it has al- ways been substantial. Readers are always eager to reach for regional and local media, because they know that they are addressed directly to them. For example, in Poland in recent decades, many political changes have taken place, also at the local level. And the regional press, including Gazeta Olsztyńska — despite easy access to the national press, now also on digital platforms — still has its loyal readers and subscribers and enjoys their unwavering trust, which we do not want to disappoint,” Jarosław Tokarczyk states firmly.
“With globalisation, more and more, the big themes reach the national newspapers quickly and this type of news reaches more people, however the de- tail and the local knowledge that the regional journalist can and must put in his news, means that local news is essential for those who want to be well informed, in detail. In the Portuguese case, readers have already noticed this detail, and so there has been an increase in local demand,” Artur Bace- lar reminisces.
“Decentralisation of power was one of the most important parts of the post-communist transition in Poland. The more democratic our country grew, the more sovereign local governments were becoming. To be strong in united Europe and to build strong and united Europe we must strengthen our local communities across the continent. And that is — in my view — the key role of the regional media. To foster lo- cal communities, tradition, and cultural heritage,” Jorge Gimeno Pawłowski adds.
“Regional media that carry out their activity with rigor, credibility and transparency have strengthened their pub- lic presence in recent years, broadening their focus, and being able to reach larger audiences thanks to new technologies. In addition to the classic paper-based dissemination, other forms of communication have been added, mainly supported by the Internet, such as electronic editions, social networks, vi- deo broadcasts, newsletters… and a wide range of formats. As these media incorporate these new options into their information discourse, their role in society will become stronger,” Adela Sánchez says.
Views for the future
As we already recalled one of many Polish proverbs, I’d like to go along this path and recall another one: Strength in a flock. Meaning, our work and activities become even stronger when we associate with “birds of a feather.”
Thus, an idea to gather together occurred — to co- -operate, exchange experiences and ideas, to complement each other and become stronger by togetherness. And this is how the European Network of Regional Media was crea- ted. Why exactly is it needed — who may gain, who may lose? And those who gain — what will they gain exactly?
“For me, at the journalistic level, the European Network could be important for major themes, coordinated among all, in order to obtain a much more complete news and that truly portrays the state of the European Union in all issues.
“Who wins? Obviously the reader and the policy makers who have a reliable and independent document. I don’t believe there are any who lose,” Artur Bacelar believes.
“I believe that cooperation, support and constant exchange of good practices can only bring benefits. And if this pro- cess takes place in culturally different European countries — the profit is multiplied. Everyone gains, although each one in a different dimension: publishers have access to proven solutions in other countries; journalists — experience and a different perspective on the affairs of regions and their inhabitants. But readers and users will benefit the most, because good practices in various European regions will certainly translate into broadening horizons and a different perception of many issues,” believes Jarosław Tokarczyk.
“Regional Media are peoples’ voice. So when we join forces and work to support each other as European Network of Regional Media, we make this voice heard. It’s protecting pluralism in globalised world,” Jorge Gimeno Pawłowski adds.
“In a globalised world, companies and media must take advantage of synergies to make projects more viable and to explore new ways of working. Sharing ideas, projects, com- mon approaches, and new and interesting formats to reach citizens — is always
positive and enriching for all parties.
“First of all, citizens can take advantage of these synergies because they will perceive the concerns of their regional media to impro- ve and to introduce innovations that will allow them to have better, easier and simpler access to the information they are looking for or need. Besides, it will provide them with quality information as the processes have been optimised. “Secondly, those media that do not operate with rigor, using false or unconfirmed news and that are governed more by personal interests than by the common interest, will be affected.
“And thirdly, we believe that the media that participate in this type of initiative, both from a business and professional point of view, will gain talent, creativity, motivation and credibility, since being part of a network implies commitment and proactivity,” Adela Sánchez ponders.
Regional media and the EU
As Beata Tokarczyk , Board Representative for Operations at Grupa WM, says: “At Grupa WM, we very much care nowadays to develop our company internationally and open to European markets and projects. As we have al- ready gained much experience with European and other foreign partners, e.g. from Spain, Israel, Norway and Portugal, we’d like to follow that path and set up a new project. The idea of the European Network of Regional Media is our next “baby,” whom we’re going to bring up to its adulthood. The Grupa WM is the leader of this project.
“COVID-19 proved to us all that regional media found themselves in the worst situation. First of all, their geographical range is narro- wer — and this means lower accessibility and lower income. So I thought we should close ranks with other media from various European regions, to be able to enter into international projects — for a start. We also want to be an audible voice in Brussels, as together we just feel stronger,” believes Beata Tokarczyk.