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Contemporary Journalism -> Bosnia and Herzegovina
ANALYSIS OF 100 ISSUES OF DNEVNI LIST: IN A RIFT BETWEEN TWO HOMELANDS
28.01.2002: Dusan Babic

Dnevni List is the youngest daily newspaper in Bosnia-Herzegovina launched four months ago. It was started as a result of a need of the Croat people in Bosnia-Herzegovina to have a daily in the Croatian language which will report from a so-called Croat angle and cover some territories that had not been interesting or accessible to other media before. Still, this does not mean that this is exclusively a Croat newspaper that cannot interest other readers. But the obscure political reality in the country which still generates grave national divisions and which is reflected in the media sphere automatically labels the paper as such. An analysis made on the basis of the paper’s first 100 issues gives a qualitative overview of the newspaper’s form and content and provides answers regarding its ethnic and political orientation.

 

Difficult Times for Newspapers

In an analysis of the first 10 issues of the weekly BH Danas, which has been shut down ingloriously in the meantime, the opening observation regarded the unfavorable media situation in the country five years after the signing of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Unfortunately, a little more than a year later, the situation is not much different. In some aspects it has even deteriorated. The overall environment for the media is depressing, in particularly for the print media. In addition to economic desolation which is directly destroying the media, the demographic structure of the population has also dramatically changed. Cities are populated mostly by illiterate, or functionally illiterate populations; this has a particularly negative affect on the print media. Circulations are low and the number of unsold copies is high, even for the divided Bosnian-Herzegovinian media market. Still, as a rule, we can talk about shades of bad or worse, certainly not better. However, even in such an environment new media are being started, whose publishing, unfortunately, is purely politically motivated.

In the 10th issue of the weekly BH Danas (Oct. 8, 2000), the column ‘A word from the editor’ announced the launching of a new newspaper next spring, whose name was already decided. First it was supposed to be Republika, but in the meantime a daily of the same name appeared in Zagreb (which was also shut down ingloriously). ‘In order to avoid confusion and overlapping with colleagues from Zagreb, we were forced to make a slight change. The paper will be called Nova Republika,’ concluded a commentary entitled Nova Republika, signed by Dnevni List’s recently appointed Editor-in-Chief Marko Markovic.

But, Dnevni List – ‘The first daily newspaper in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the Croatian language,’ as the paper’s nameplate literally says, did not appear under the announced name, nor did it appear in spring, but rather last fall, actually on October 1, 2001. We can only guess why the initial name was abandoned. It seems the name carried an unsuitable political connotation (a third entity). Be it as it may, the 100th issue of Dnevni List appeared exactly on January 9 this year, which provides a sufficient time span for a serious and comprehensive analysis.

It must be emphasized right away that the publisher is identical as in the case of the weekly BH Danas – National Holding d.o.o. The paper’s seat is in West Mostar. The journalistic core of the shut weekly has mostly been preserved. Even certain journalistic genres used by its media predecessor are still fostered, for example interview, with carefully chosen speakers, and as a rule, on a current topic.

 

Graphic Design

Dnevni List is published in Banja Luka, at the Glas Srpski printing house, in an identical format as that paper (43x28), which the Banja Luka-based Nezavisne Novine had also used until recently and which since recently is being printed in Sarajevo, at the GIK OKO printing house. If market conditions were normal, this would be nothing unusual, but in our irregular circumstances, this is only an illustration of one of the many paradoxes we live with.

By its format and front page layout, Dnevni List suggests a tabloid, but the inside pages deny that. Let me remind that a tabloid originally means: (1) small format, (2) concentrically laid out news items, shorter articles, and (3) large headlines and a lot of photographs, illustrations, etc.

Generally speaking, the Dnevni List graphic design is poor and uninventive. Photographs, solely black-and-white, are of poor quality. The youngest daily newspaper in Bosnia-Herzegovina is published on 36 pages. On Saturdays and Sundays Dnevni List is published as a double issue, and on holidays (All Saints’ Day, Christmas, New Year’s Eve) as a triple issue. This will probably be done next Easter as well.

The first discrete modification in the heading was noticed in the sixth issue. The paper’s motto was printed in larger letters above the paper’s name, and ‘Mostar’ as the place where the paper is printed was published underneath. A new redesign of the heading was made with issue no. 39 by introducing larger letters in the paper’s heading.

If we disregard occasional photo-reportages, the balance between text and photographs is approximately 3:1 in favor of text, which is not typical of a tabloid.

 

Content and Editorial Presentation

Dnevni List chose a generally traditional division of sections. A regular item on the second page is ‘Day’s Commentary,’ signed by different authors usually from the permanent newsroom team. Articles in the ‘Day’s Commentary,’ as a rule, discuss current political events. In the lower left corner of the same page is a regular caricature ‘Tipa and Pipa,’ drawn by Ante Ivankovic. The drawing is correct, but it is more suitable for an illustration or vignette, lacking those leisurely, recognizable, skillful strokes typical of caricature. Text and idea are scanty.

Regular sections are ‘From the country,’ ‘Current Events,’ ‘Business Page,’ ‘Croatia,’ ‘Carried from Other Sources,’ ‘World,’ ‘Mostar,’ ‘From my Home Area,’ ‘Culture,’ ‘Sport,’ ‘Feuilleton,’ ‘Astro Corner,’ weather forecast, crossword puzzle, ‘TV Program,’ and the last is the ‘Duty Page,’ which has a mosaic character. Photo-reportages are occasionally published in the center-spread. At the beginning there was a section called ‘Readers’ Letters,’ but it was soon removed. It is interesting that the eastern variant of the word newsroom was first used – redakcija (‘Readers’ letters do not reflect the views of the newsroom. The newsroom retains the right to shorten articles.’).

A new occasional column called ‘At the beginning there was word’ by Petar Milos was also introduced in the sixth issue. These humorous articles are a mild variation of similar articles in Slobodna Dalmacija, but they have elements of skillfully infiltrated home country folklore and an anthropological, sociological, cultural, and even political-essayistic approach. Particularly memorable are undemanding items ‘Stick,’ ‘Photograph’ and ‘Bread.’

A new column of a symptomatic name was introduced in the 29th issue: ‘On Tuesday to the Right,’ which is regularly signed by Marko Tokic. It is hard to say today whether this was an announcement of an editorial shift to the right. Be it as it may, two new columns appeared in the 74th issue: ‘Three in Two’ and ‘With Reserve.’ ‘Three in Two’ is written by Dr. Ante F. Markotic. The name of the column is pronouncedly symbolic with a politicized message and these articles, as a rule, reflect intolerance. A little more on that later.

Interesting travel reportages are occasionally featured in the center-spread, which is not typical for a daily newspaper.

In issue no. 52 of November 22 last year, a new section was introduced called ‘Military Range.’ As a rule, this section is published once a week. It is signed by Miro Nikolic, military analyst. The issues developed by the author are not of a narrow military, or military-technical-strategic nature, but are placed in the current political context.

Culture, as a rule, is featured in the center-spread, with a layout similar to that of Slobodna Dalmacija. Issues are diverse: art, education, book and theater reviews, cultural and architectural heritage, show business, and ‘Story’ (introduced in issue no. 58 of November 28 last year), which for the time being is signed by just one author (Mirko S. Bozic).

Sports items are usually extensive, mostly regionally located. A dominant place is given to football and basketball.

  In a Rift Between the Home Country and the Domicile Country

In a recent report issued by the Helsinki Human Rights Committee in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Dnevni List was accentuated, together with the Banja Luka-based Prst, as spreading hate speech. This formulation suggests hate speech on racial, national, ethnic, religious and other related grounds. I claim with full responsibility that I have not noticed such writing in a hundred and more carefully checked and read issues. There is a lot of inflammatory writing in Dnevni List, but on completely different grounds – political. It reflects bigotry, intolerance, narrow-mindedness, but only towards those with different political opinions, in particular those from the same ethnic group.

Dnevni List has obviously found itself in a rift between the home country and the domicile country. Readers are in a similar dilemma, particularly those who are still obsessed with the fate and burden of the domicile (neighboring) country. Newspapers from Croatia and in particular broadcasters are seen by Croats in Western Herzegovina and parts of central Bosnia and Posavina as domicile media.

A lot of dust was raised with regard to the abolishment of Croatian Radio Television (HRT) signal and introduction of federal television. Dnevni List reported on this issue frequently and systematically, but often uncritically. All this was sublimed and openly admitted by Milan Sutalo, until recently the paper’s editor-in-chief, in ‘Day’s Commentary,’ under the headline ‘We got what we deserve’ (double issue of October 27-28 last year). A similar, but tacit confession was made in ‘Day’s Commentary’ under the headline “Croatian Word as a Paradigm,’ in the issue of December 11 last year regarding the closure of the weekly Hrvatska Rijec.

The above rift, primarily spiritual and mental, is written about, probably unconsciously, but pragmatically, by Marko Markovic, the paper’s new editor-in-chief as of the 94th issue (January 3 this year), in ‘Day’s Commentary’ under the headline ‘Ours and Yours.’ The direct reason for the commentary was a basketball match between Feal Siroki and Zagreb’s Cibona VIP played recently in Siroki Brijeg. In short, the majority of players in both teams were Herzegovinian. However, the title of the commentary was inappropriately taken from a TV series of the same name. The series is about a conflict between urban and rural mentality, developed from a cheerful and comic point of view. This commentary, unfortunately, radiates all the paradoxes and even the tragedy of this country, which is persistently rejected by a considerable part of its population.

  Instead of a Conclusion

In the past, almost four months of publishing of the youngest Bosnian-Herzegovinian daily newspaper, no particular deviation or editorial bias, shifts, etc. were noticed. Dnevni List simply fits into the general Bosnian-Herzegovinian media ‘grayness,’ which is certainly not an exclusive privilege of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian media landscape, but rather a wider characteristic. Inconsistent and unprincipled editorial policy is the common characteristic of almost all media outlets in the territory of our former joint country.

In the specific case of Dnevni List, its position on the international community is indicative. To illustrate, in the issue of November 5 last year, on the front page, labeled as ‘Exclusive,’ the paper announced an article entitled: Assimilation of Croats Underway in BiH According to ‘Roman Defense’ Plan. Or, a fresher example is a commentary in the issue of January 4 this year, under the headline: ‘Transformation of Croats in BiH into National Minority,’ and superscript headline: ‘Petritsch’s Final Blow.’ Creation of animosity towards the international community, personified in the High Representative, culminated after Petritsch’s remark on potential introduction of a House of Peoples in the Croatian Parliament. So much gall and malice did not appear even on the pages of Croatian papers and media in general. This additionally confirms the argument of the burden created by the rift between the home country and the domicile country, in which Bosnia-Herzegovina as a state, and wider than that, is simply lost.

The launching of Dnevni List was primarily politically motivated. That this is so is confirmed by the present circulation. According to reliable, although unofficial information, Dnevni List is printed in 3,000 copies, of which hardly 1,000 are sold! A mild rise in sales, or more precisely, lower number of unsold copies, has been noticed lately. Biggest blame for this lies on unorganized distribution and overall poor marketing. In short, logistics does not follow the creative journalistic tract. It is indicative that not all relevant Croat institutions are subscribed to the paper. The editor-in-chief admits this openly in ‘Day’s Commentary’ entitled ‘100th Issue of Dnevni List,’ where he says: ‘Many responsible persons, among them the most important representatives of the Croat people in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who should be very concerned with information, calmly, from the sidelines, have watched the editorial board’s struggle for every issue to come out.’

In the context of a really cheerless media and general social and economic constellation, any successful market positioning of a new media outlet in Bosnia-Herzegovina is a real accomplishment.

 

Dusan Babic, Media Plan Institute Analyst. Media Online 2002. All rights reserved.

 
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