GUIDELINES FOR INTERNATIONAL MEDIA COVERING GREECE
Since the start of this economic crisis, Greece has struggled with its international image. Journalists trying to fathom where to start in the coverage of the story, most obviously need help in understanding how to handle issues such as:
1. We love it when you emphasize the rustic, Zorba the Greek image of our country! Lay it on. Don’t shoot any report from Greece without showing some Greek coffee, part of an ancient monument, old men in a taverna looking at the camera as if they are all retarded, or twenty year old archive footage from a horrible beach full of drunk Northern Europeans.
2. It really helps when you choose people to interview that can’t really speak English. Might be cheaper to just hire an English actor to put on a fake “Stavros” accent. Oh, and dress him like a waiter to, your audience will relate to it much better.
3. Always, always, pick an angle that shows chaos in the background. If there is a demonstration with just 30 people outside Parliament, yep, you guessed it, pick a close angle, shake the camera around and make us all sick as if we are watching “Saving Private Ryan”.
4. If the demonstration was over in half an hour, no worries, for the next 1-2 days just show old footage of street riots anywhere in the world and get a journalist to speak over it from a bad telephone connection.
Now, the above four points might confuse you in practise, so here are four more to make you feel less guilty:
1. Yes, no matter what you write, some Greek will hate you. Get used to it. Truth is that even Greeks struggle with the idea but it seems to be the way it goes over here since Ancient times.
2. When a Greek disagrees, yes, be sure he will tell you about it. You could see it as a great traffic generator for your news organization’s website, but over time it gets tiring. Use sparingly.
3. When one Greek disagrees with your article or news item, be sure that some other Greek will immediately disagree with the first Greek. They will proceed to argue amongst themselves. Leave them to it or they will instantly gang up against you.
4. Don’t bother trying to word things carefully. It doesn’t help. Also useless is any attempt to contact sources and get them on your side before publication. Depending on the situation in Greece, they are liable to make a 180 degree turn overnight.
You may think all this conflicting advice is like walking a tightrope. You are wrong. We understand media better than most countries. This is the birthplace of tragedy. All stories are by definition as crazy as you want them. You want soap-opera material? Prime minister marrying a flight attendant OK? A bit thin on the sex scandals lately, but 3-4 families in control of everything is usually enough like next year’s PBS series on the mafia to do the trick I think.
So stop complaining. The food is good, the weather is great and we just keep producing great media events. You don’t even need to work that hard; you can always take even minor developments and set them against our permanent structural problems to blow them up enough to submit something to your boss before heading to the beach…