Monday, July 21, 2003

Read here and here for more about the Sabina Slonkova business, in Czech. (She's the star reporter at Czech daily Mlada fronta Dnes I was obliquely referring to earlier -- the one who quit over the publisher's quashing of a story. The news is out now.)

On the train to Berlin Friday afternoon, I received a call from a friend who works at Mlada fronta. Apparently one of the executive editors had read this blog and wanted to pass the following message to me (not an exact quote): "Please tell your friend he has a very interesting web site, but it contains some inaccuracies. In fact, there is not outrage in our newsroom, and if he would like to see for himself, I would be happy to show him around."

The idea of a guided tour of the MfD newsroom with all its happy reporters sounded pretty appealing, but I finally decided that if anybody from the newspaper wants to discuss with me what's been written on my little blog, they can contact me directly at scott(ZAVINAC)tulipcafe.cz, rather than passing messages through my friends.

Those Czech-language blogs linked to above contain statements from the paper's spokesperson defending how it dealt with the aforementioned story about politicians' perks at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival. Basically, it says the editor-in-chief postponed publication of the article because it had shortcomings from the editorial point of view and required readjustment. (If that's a bad translation, feel free to correct me.)

The newspaper seems to be saying the final decision on all editorial matters lies solely with the editor, not the publisher, and that the KV story was not in fact quashed by the publisher for commercial reasons, but postponted and "reworked" for editorial reasons. (And Slonkova quit over that?)

Two things: First, I know for a fact that the publisher was involved in discussions about the article because I saw him going over it with his colleagues with my own eyes. I also know this was in response to festival organizers' raising a stink about it. If the editor-in-chief has the final say on what goes into the newspaper, there's no reason for the publisher even to be involved. So the publisher's intervention looks pretty bad by itself, and that comes from an unimpeachable source: Yours truly. Second, it seems the re-worked version of the article focused mainly on Information Technology Minister Vladimir Mlynar, completely obscuring the fact that these sponsors' perks for government officials are a widespread practice; plus, mention of the Karlovy Vary Int'l Film Festival itself was almost completely missing from the article, which seems odd, since that's what the article was originally supposed to be about. Decide for yourself, but it certainly looks to me like the Festival was successful in pressuring the paper (via the publisher) to tone down the article.


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