Some days ago I received a message from a young German journalist on Twitter. As she wrote to me, she visits my Huffington Post blog regularly and she asked me to meet her for an interview in the context of a research she is working on, on how young people in Greece face the financial and refugee crisis.
She travelled to Athens for some days, so that she could also talk to other young people, who would help her with her report. We met at a popular café downtown and from many aspects, our discussion was very interesting. Apart from the questions she made to me for her report, we also had the chance to talk about the working conditions in Germany, as regards journalism. I have a feeling that this part of our discussion was the most enlightening for both me and her.
After I told her that here in Greece one doesn't need to have a relevant degree or certificate in order to work in the media, I mentioned the problem of the delay of the -low- salaries. The salaries that not only are not paid in time, but sometimes the employee needs to call his/her employer, or send an e-mail explaining that s/he is in need of the salary, because rent and bills are waiting. As I was talking to her about this and many other facts happening as regards journalism in Greece, I could see the expression of surprise in her eyes. She said: "I can't imagine how it is to work and be paid every two or three months and begging for your salary".
The same surprise appeared on her face, but this time with a bit of disappointment, when I told her the numbers between which the salary of a young journalist in Greece ranges. "If you are lucky and you work with insurance, you will hardly be offered 500 € monthly, if you are friend with the boss, you may have 700€ monthly" I said.
As she informed me, in Germany the first salary is 1800€ monthly and it increases as time goes by. But the conditions are much stricter, as even in order to do his/her practice, a journalist has to be very sufficient. On the contrary in Greece, somebody who wants to do a practice is at once accepted with pleasure, as it means that more work will be done, without spending money in addition. Nevertheless, there are many informational sites or newspapers with two or three employees and with all the others working voluntarily, justifying it as practice.
In the end I did not omit to tell her about the greatest paradox of the Greek media and especially the newspapers: "Journalists who do not know even the main rules of syntax taught at school, sign reports, which have been written by others, usually people 20-25 years old. Of course when the article is published one sees the name of the so called journalist, who also takes the money instead of the 20-25 year old person who wrote the text".
"In Germany the main condition in order to work for a newspaper, is to know how to write. Even if one is a TV star, he or she will be fired if he/she does not write correctly" she answered.
As time went by I could feel the gap between us getting bigger and bigger. She was living in a country that gives her the chance to work seriously on what she loves and on the other side I was expressing my indignation for the facts here and my thought to abandon this profession. I don't know who or what is to blame for the situation at which the media in Greece have been reduced, the only thing I certainly know is that unfortunately, this situation is not going to change soon. I know young people who really love real journalism and research reports and are seeking their fortune in foreign media. But I also know people who have studied something else or nothing at all, but have managed to work for a magazine or a newspaper and are paid regularly without even moving from their chair.
After I said goodbye to Stefanie (that is her name), I took the way home, thinking of all the things we talked about. Unfortunately, this conversation verified everything I believed for the minimal opportunities for professional development in Greece, in contrast to other European countries, as also the triviality characterizing Greece at any level. Somebody who is reading this text may call me a pessimist, a miserous person, or a lazy one who is always complaining without doing anything. But I also know that there will be others, who will identify their own problems with mine, who will see their labor not being acknowledged and who are now serving coffees in order to make a living.