Group 1 kicked off our series of interviews today with Pavol Múdry, a veteran Slovakian journalist who created Bratislava’s first private commercial news agency. Brianna Hurwitz, Jessica Marquez, Karl Hille and Raj Topiwala asked Múdry a series of questions we developed as a class about his career and experiences working in Slovakia.
Unlike most journalists in the country, Múdry got his start young. He watched his father report the news under the totalitarian communist rule that lasted until 1989. Múdry has no formal journalism training, gaining experience through jobs and seminars in the United States and Germany.
Múdry returned and founded SITA in 1997 as a private commercial alternative to the existing media organizations in Bratislava. He has since gone on to become a media consultant.
The landscape of Slovak journalism evolved rapidly over the last 50 years. Múdry touched on the changing role of news in society, from newspapers’ role of providing entertaining and reliable sports coverage during the communist era to what Múdry describes as a free press today.
But with only 25 years of journalistic tradition and a young workforce, Múdry said the industry still has room to grow, both in quality and public value.
“I used to joke and say we can say whatever we want, but what happens after, we’ll see,” he said.
For example, criminal defamation, in which journalists convicted of libel can be tried and sent prison, is still legal, a practice condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists.
While such laws can intimidate journalists-in-the-making, Múdry said he’s never seen solid coverage result in such harsh backlash, highlighting the importance of strong and honest reporting.
Our second speaker of the day, author and consultant Patti McCracken, mentioned parallel trends of growth in the professionalism and experience of Slovakia’s news reporters, noting changes between when she first began training young journalists in the 1990s and today.
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