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Meet the kids running a Donbas town’s only local media outlet

Meet the kids running a Donbas town’s only local media outlet
Edited by: Alya Shandra

Having experienced the hardships of war, the young generation of Donbas now develops civil society in their native town. Teenagers in Mykolayivka, a town near Sloviansk in Donetsk Oblast, are filling in the information vacuum with a student-run newspaper which serves as the only local media outlet for the settlement.

Almost 2 years have past since the tragic events in the town when it was under control of Russian backed militants of so-called “Donetsk Peoples Republic” in the summer of 2014. The conflict itself was possible to a large extent because of the distorted media landscape, which was heavily dominated by Russian media which showed Ukrainian events in a manipulated and distorted way. This vitriolic distortion of the media landscape fueled hatred and separatism in the Donbas region. After it was liberated by the Ukrainian Army, many things changed. For example, new residents appeared in the city – internally displaced people and soldiers. However, the media environment remained almost unchanged – until ordinary school students interfered.

Today, many people in Mykolayivka still watch Russian TV channels. Ukrainian national and Donetsk Oblast media would rather pay attention to Sloviansk which is the district center, but Mykolayivka with the population of about 15,000 remains in the shadows even for the local residents, as there is no municipal newspaper.

Now there is one and it is run by teenagers.

Voices of the city – a student-run local newspaper

Victoriia Gorodynska, the chief editor of the Golosa Goroda. Photo from the facebook page of the newspaper

Read also: Drop in the ocean principle for Ukrainian media

Since autumn 2014, many volunteers have come to the town to help it to recover not only physically, but also mentally. In autumn 2015, Daniel Schulz German journalist from the TAZ newspaper together with another German Marco Zschiek and Ukrainian journalists Sofia Kochmar, Galina Kryvobok and Olena Makarenko decided to help local school students to organize a newspaper:

“When I came to Mykolayivka I wanted to found a newspaper for the whole city together with other Ukrainian journalists. Not only for the 3rd school. In this country too much of the pubic discussion is occupied by some media which is owned by somebody. Giving the media to the people is at least one, albeit imperfect, instrument to deal with the problem.

From the left to the right: Alina Kobernik, a photographer of Golosa Goroda, Viktoriia Gorodinskaya, Oleksandr Babakov, a journalist of Golosa Goroda, Daniel Schulz, a German journalist and founder of the paper

The first issue of Golosa Goroda [Voices of the City, the name is chosen by the school students from the editorial staff] was published in November 2015. By May 2016 four issues with the circulation 1000 already have been released. Teenagers are dealing with writing, editing, design, printing, and distribution without adults. With every next issue, the newspaper becomes more professional and the topics raised are more serious.

“Making a newspaper for me is means helping people to change themselves for the better, and to change our town,” says Victoriia Gorodynska, 9 grade student and the chief editor of Golosa Goroda.

A local media outlet inspires local action

Young journalists helped soldiers to organize a community event for the town. Photo: Golosa Goroda

Victoriia has already conducted an interview with the mayor of the town, local deputies write her in Viber suggesting topics, and some of the initiatives of the young journalists have already grown into community events.

For example, after taking an interview from two local soldiers, school students helped them to organize an event for children in the town. Helping soldiers in a town is not easy as some people do not approve of them staying in Mykolayivka. Victoria herself had prejudices against  servicemen, which she wrote about at the beginning of the interview. The live communication did its work and Viktoriia together with her young colleagues even became friends with the soldiers who presented a Ukrainian flag to the editorial room.

Since some of the editorial staff graduated school this May and are going to move from Mykolayivka, the newspaper is looking for new editors, journalists, designers and photographers from other schools. Recently they visited the other 3 schools of the town to find new people.

So far the  of Golos Goroda are paid by the German fund Taz Panter Stiftung. The local community is also thinking on how to develop the newspaper as it really needed for the town.

Edited by: Alya Shandra
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