A tragic event shows the downhill path taken by Slovenian journalism – more and more scandal, less and less ethics

05/12/2014 -  Stefano Lusa Koper

He committed suicide after days of media pillory, this was the end of the story of the dean of a technical school in Maribor. He and a maths teacher had been filmed in a classroom. She sat on a desk, without pants and panties; his head was stuck between her thighs. The amateur 20-second video, made by a student and posted on social networks, quickly jumped to the headlines. From that moment on, their lives changed. Two ordinary people ended up in the news and the consequences for them and their families have been devastating.

Radio, television, and newspapers shed rivers of ink to narrate what happened, making fun of the two lovers. The news soon bounced in the rest of the Balkans and even beyond. The two tried to defend themselves by denying, saying the video was false, but in the end they were not able to escape the public ridicule. It all ended when the principal decided to take his own life.

Such an epilogue was actually to be expected – the casualty was only a matter of time. The boring, austere style that had characterized Slovenian journalism until the nineties has long been supplanted by a new, much more rampant and aggressive style, that seeks to chase the news without too many ethical or moral questions. The model is American tabloid journalism – but without the same talent, style, and above all without real monsters to deal with.

The objective is to raise a click more than the others, to have more viewers or listeners, or to sell one more copy of the newspaper. A normal logic, they say, for those who every day must beat the competition to stay on a small and difficult market. You have to give the public what they want, find the scandal, tell it, investigate the most itchy secrets of the protagonists of the political, economic, and social scene, but also of individual citizens.

The media profession in Slovenia

The hounds chasing the news in this new picture are very often precarious workers, more or less young, dreaming of fame and prizes. The profession in Slovenia is tough. For years cuts have become more and more frequent, newsrooms are getting smaller, schedules are tight, salaries are not always adequate, while the profession's social prestige is immensely lower than in other Western countries. The job, however, retains its charm because of the power offered worldwide by a pen, a microphone, and especially a camera.

In fact, this and other stories that have risen to the forefront of national news never deserved the publicity – in the past, they would have been dispatched to a few lines in the last pages. This has, however, changed.

In Slovenia, the largest daily newspaper is a tabloid, while the most successful radio and television programs are those that offer this type of journalism. It was clear that such a story would draw them like flies. So the news continued to hold court and Slovenians kept wanting more – it was one of the most followed and most clicked pieces of news of the week. The audience wanted to know every detail. Media explained that the maths teacher may deny the facts, as her face did not appear in the video, but the rings on her finger were similar to those that appeared in a photograph taken during a school trip.

What now?

Had it not been for the suicide, the story would have stayed in the spotlight for another week and then remained in the annals of Slovenia's sex scandals, to be pulled out every time a similar story would appear.

Today, Slovenia seems to question the incident. Some speak of a mistake and of the need to achieve greater self-regulation of the profession. When the dust settles, however, everything will be back to business as usual.

Established writers, moralists and experts now pontificate from their ivory towers about the need to preserve the ethical dimension of the profession. Their words will be forgotten as soon as a new scandal appears on the horizon. This is what Slovenian journalism has been like for some time, and these days it has only reached its most important achievement.



This publication has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso and its partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union. The project's page: Safety Net for European Journalists.A Transnational Support Network for Media Freedom in Italy and South-east Europe

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