pühapäev, juuli 26, 2009

midagi inglise keeles

The entire news staff of the Baltic Times quit recently, according to various news reports.

Vello Vikerkaar's got a stirring piece up on the issue right now: his Postimees piece inspired this venture into "me too" blogging.

I am not surprised, having seen editors come and go through the years. Several tried to reform the newspaper for the better but failed. At one point, one even told me, "If you want the job, it's yours for the taking." For some reason, I declined and decided to remain in my auxiliary capacity.

When I used to freelance for BT, I would fantasize about how I would remake it. First, I would kill all the cosmetic "Baltic" crap, whereby any creature living within the territory of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania was a "Balt" -- a term originally used for Baltic Germans. Go into an Estonian supermarket and ask the cashier if she's seen any Balts lately. See what she tells you.

After the death of "the Balt," I would add an office in Helsinki to make it a full-fledged "eastern rim" newspaper. That might irritate people in that post-tsarist nordic country, but they deserve it.

Finally, I'd set up stringers in major Baltic Sea cities: Stockholm, Gdansk, St. Petersburg. The Baltic Times would have daily online content, and suddenly make other local English-language news sources in the region look provincial. It would be a sea-sized publication. We would keep a pensioner at a desk in Riga, the natural center of the region, and call it our headquarters.

That was a fantasy. Accomplishing it would have been impossible. I suggested the "Finnish office" idea to an editor once, but was told that Finland was labyrinthine and "you have to have a cousin up there to get anything done." From there, one could guess that an expansion to Stockholm or St. Petersburg was not really an option. BT would march on, publishing on such topics as "Baltic fashion," "Baltic music," and "Baltic fiction."

Nowadays, if you want something in English on the region, you've got to search the blogs, decipher the news stories on BBN, or wait patiently for The Economist's Edward Lucas to write something, when he's not in Ruthenia or Moldova.

Or you could just learn Estonian.

20 kommentaari:

Michael Moossen ütles ...

or wait until you post it here ;)
great work!

Lingüista ütles ...

Or learn Latvian and/or Lithuanian! Quite similar tasks, aren't they?

Lingüista ütles ...

By the way, you could in principle still check places like The Baltic Course; and apparently the Baltic Times aren't dropping their online site. There are also Russian-language places (it's still easier for me to read the news in Russian than in Estonian, but hopefully that'll change... give me another year...) like ETV, the Delfi portal, etc.

Inner monologue ütles ...

What happened to BNS? What is their mission statement?

Martasmimi ütles ...

You have great ideas Justin I very impressed with your ability to reinvent this publication...
Unfortunatly it seems like a case of "banging ones head against a wall because it feels good when you stop".

The Pasha ütles ...

Already learning the Estonian thats why I am in Tartu at the momment

Martin-Éric ütles ...

I'll gladly man the Finnish desk.

Kristopher ütles ...

I respect Scott for his great work with the City Paper and his essays -- it's on the order of the Lucas-era Baltic Outlook -- and realize that many people have worked for TBT over the years -- some apprentices, some journeymen -- but any discussion of TBT history would be incomplete without mention of the basic Riga-Tallinn power struggle that has existed ever since there were two Eng-lang weeklies; and so many colourful characters -- the Latvian president's son, the louche Harvard grad who assumed the mantle after the merger, the Danish furniture salesman who shouldn't have been running a newspaper in a million years, the legendary J-school recruit who flew in from Warsaw and snuck out the back door before her interview started, good writers like Andres Kahar, THE entertainment critic Laimons Juris G, TBI editor-in-chief Tarmu Tammerk (his role a bit unfairly overshadowed by Edward Lucas, who recently was identified as "former editor of TBI" in a byline). I was definitely not even an insider, yet the office politics burned me time and again. I'm not surprised to hear there's been a walkout -- it's not the first.

Rein Batuut ütles ...

I suggest you dont take any Estonians seriously on the matter of whether its feasible or even possible to do business (etc) outside Estonia because we are a pessimistic slavish nation lacking ambition. And we also have an inferiority complex... So I'd just go for it if I were you, the fantasy really does sound great!

Lingüista ütles ...

The Estonians have an inferiority complex? I hadn't noticed that... They looked to me like the quiet, slow-and-steady type, but not the kind who spends too much time worrying about inferiority. Besides, they're arguably doing better than the other Baltic countries, and better than some (most?) Eastern European countries -- what is the problem?

Martin ütles ...

The advent of the internet has seen many newspapers hit the wall. Even the mighty News Corp is in trouble. The era of paper editions is coming to an end.

Perhaps you could use your American entrepreneurial spirit and develop a web based news portal for Estonian news in English, like BBN, but with better english and none of the lurid anti-Estonian sentiment on the article comment pages.

Giustino ütles ...

Besides, they're arguably doing better than the other Baltic countries, and better than some (most?) Eastern European countries -- what is the problem?

Chronic dissatisfaction. Or, as Fred Jüssi once told me, a national outlook that spins like a weathervane. He should know, he's seen a few flags flying over Toompea in his lifetime.

Colm ütles ...

I always liked getting TBT on Estonian Air. I remember on my first trip to Estonia I amazed (annoyed?) my Estonian hosts with my knowledge gathered from TBT and Estonian Air's On Time in-flight magazine.

Myst ütles ...

Batuudi Rein, sa kuradi lammas, don't generalise so much!

As for high-quality news in English - business and otherwise - I do think it should be the task of Eesti Rahvusringhääling. I.e. state funded. If someone would set up a support group for that (in whatever form), I'd support it too! In more ways than one.

Martin ütles ...

Myst ütles...
As for high-quality news in English - business and otherwise - I do think it should be the task of Eesti Rahvusringhääling. I.e. state funded.


Paul Reuter and Michael Bloomberg would disagree. News reporting is something that can be done quite profitably by enterprising individuals.

Inner monologue ütles ...

Great reading ... ttp://exiledonline.com/decline-fall-of-america-exhibit-514-broke-alabama-county-calls-in-national-guard-to-keep-order/#more-10878

Myst ütles ...

Paul Reuter and Michael Bloomberg would disagree. News reporting is something that can be done quite profitably by enterprising individuals.


Generally, that's true of course. But in case news in English cannot be done profitably in Estonia - and this seems to be the case - I think ERR should step in. As it's very important to have reliable English news about Estonia, I think. Even for reasons related to national security.

And look at YLE - they have news in Finnish, Swedish, Sami, English, and Russian. (And Latin, for some reason..) Not to mention the BBC, who provides news in 32 languages.

Vello ütles ...

I like Myst's idea about ERR stepping in. And if there's anyone progressive enough to see the benefit in that, it would be ERR's current chief, Tiina Kaalep.

Maybe Myst can somehow seed the idea there? I'd enlist to work for Tiina, no problem. I'm sure many others would, as well.

Myst ütles ...

I sent a letter suggesting it to Mrs. Kaalep, Mr. Allikmaa and my MP (he got my vote, so there! ;-)) who happens to sit in ERR's Council. And also to El Presidente (who might be interested in this because of his background).

But I'm just an average citizen, so the amount of good that will do is not huge..

Perhaps an arvamusavaldus in, say, Postimees might help quite a bit more? Any well-known writers around? ;-)

Lingüista ütles ...

Totally off topic, but, speaking of Postimees and news, did you see that young Sergei Metlev is suing MK-Estonia for slander? I wish him luck!