How does it work when a local media outlet helps solve local problems, rather than just “informing the community”? We are studying the experience of colleagues, and in this material—the experience of the editorial office of the Zoria newspaper from Zolochiv, Kharkiv Oblast.

The Zoria newspaper from Zolochiv in the border region of Kharkiv merged with the Visti Bohodukhivshchyny newspaper with the beginning of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops. In the conditions of hostilities and shelling, journalists were able to help residents of the village restore the stationary power supply. The publication realized, in difficult conditions for the life of the local community, that people expected help from the editorial office. Therefore, it is not enough just to record the facts; it is necessary to influence the situation, to act at least as a coordinator in certain important cases. This was largely facilitated by the provision of a grant from the European Union to the editorial staff of the Ukrainian Media Business Association (UMBA). Vasyl Miroshnyk, the editor of the united Zoria and Visti Bohodukhivshchyny newspapers, shares his experience in solving the problems of the whole village.

Studying people’s opinions begins with testing ideas

Our newspaper was never a primitive magazine, which was intended only to reflect the phenomena and events that took place in the district. Moreover, we have never sought a non-alternative coverage of the actions of the authorities, although it appears that this is what they wanted. Very often, we were the last resort that ordinary people turned to when they were desperate in their attempts to improve their lives or at least defend their rights. That is why the newspaper has not received a penny from the local budget over the past three decades. So, when the long-awaited denationalization happened to us, we were able to successfully work as a completely independent publication.

That is, seeing the concern and helping to solve it has become an ordinary activity for us. This is how the editorial board actually participated in the life of the community.

Communicating with our readers about the prospects for developing the Bohodukhiv district if new processing enterprises appear in it.

The algorithm was as follows: on the pages of the newspaper, we first proposed or announced some contributors’ ideas, and then, together with the readers, determined their importance, developed them, and achieved the result. The same was with problems. First, we covered them, and then we looked for ways to overcome them.

First, a story about the problem. And then, together with the community, we look for ways to solve it. It is publicity and interaction that allow us to go from a concern to its solution.

Not only to raise problems, but to look for ways to overcome them together with the community.

Among the latest examples related to the course of active hostilities, it is fair to mention the story of the lack of power supply in the frontline village of Ivashky.

It takes less than a kilometer from this village to the border with Russia. That’s where we deliver almost a hundred newspapers every week. To ensure that such information and provision of the press were stable, we willingly took the opportunity—the project proposed to us by the UMBA
supported by the European Union. For its implementation, we did exactly what we knew how to do: we sought to inform, influence, and obtain the final result. Precisely at this time, the situation with electricity in Ivashky happened.

Once, after another shelling of Ivashky, the light disappeared; the power substation was burned. Part of the settlement was connected to electricity: district employees of the electric networks and the villagers themselves worked to restore it. But in the neighborhood with multi-apartment buildings, near an inactive distillery, problems with light were more difficult to solve. This lasted three months, autumn was already looming on the horizon, but the situation did not change.

The condition of our editorial office after two attacks on the yard. But we’re still working!

The authorities went to the location to find out the situation. There were some attempts to connect the electricity, but they ended in nothing. At the next meeting, members of the local council, heads of the district and communities simply did not know what to do and suggested that the residents of the district evacuate. However, this was the most difficult thing: there were about two hundred people, most of them pensioners, and many were people with disabilities.

Very often, issues are not solved because they seem difficult to everyone, and the solution just doesn’t seem to be there. But the engagement of different participants in the discussion makes it possible to see different options and, as a rule, allows finding solutions to even the most complex problems.

“Who needs us there? This is our home,” Ivashky residents told us at a meeting where journalists were invited. We recorded video clips at these meetings, then there was a publication in the newspaper. Half the world saw that video and the article. This is not an exaggeration, since locals  sent the story on social networks to all their friends in different countries.

Subsequently, when it became clear to everyone that the authorities and heads of regional energy companies were not going to radically change anything in the electricity supply, it was the editorial board that announced a new meeting. More than a hundred Ivashky residents came to it. And again, through our social media platforms, information about the protesters and their problems spread around the world. People wrote letters to the Verkhovna Rada, the Presidential Administration of Ukraine and accompanied them with clippings from our newspaper.

This drew attention to the problem, but even then, it did not yield the expected satisfactory result. There was an intermediate result: electric generators were delivered to this part of the village. Well, it was at least some result, but we were counting on something else. It seemed that it was done to buy people off and prepare them for wintering without stationary light.

“Will we have gasoline delivered as well?” The residents asked, understanding what the generator needed to function. Again, we came out with an article, but at that point, we were already engaging local power engineers.

The active role of the editorial staff is often the path that leads to a solution. The platform of the newspaper—as an independent participant of events and at the same time as the media— allows gathering opposing parties, and the force of 
public pressure makes them fulfill their duties and joint agreements. 

We involved specialists whom the newspaper had already helped earlier

We have had good contact with the employees of the regional electric networks since they repaired broken wires and lifted electrical poles on the territory of the community, as reported by the publication. We also met when the Zolochiv community was attacked with missiles every day, houses were destroyed, and people were killed. These were some scary times, but electricians followed the emergency services immediately because power grids needed repairing. Then we found out that the workers did not have the opportunity to wait in queues to receive humanitarian aid (and they also needed it) because they were at work all the time. They didn’t have enough fuel for cars, either. We covered it on the pages of the newspaper.

After our publications and videos, the community decided to deliver the humanitarian aid directly to the SE Regional Electric Networks, considering every worker and their family members. Volunteers raised money for gasoline and diesel fuel. We informed the readers of these changes. The residents themselves brought food to the electricians so that they were not distracted from work. That is, there was a direct connection: the newspaper attracted attention—the issues were resolved.

So, when it was necessary to radically solve the problem with the power supply of Ivashky, our power engineers found a way out: they connected the village to a transformer located a couple of dozen kilometers from the border. It would more difficult to destroy. Thus, the villagers had power the whole winter.

We have not yet written about this fact, for obvious security reasons. But we listened to people’s gratitude with pleasure. The result was not limited to just gratitude: the circulation of our newspaper in that region had a slight increase. Of course, the positive result we had both for the newspaper and for the community was due to the assistance we received from the UMBA within the framework of the European Union project, for which we are sincerely grateful.

The author of the publication: Vasyl Miroshnyk, editor-in-chief of the Zoria and Visti Bohodukhivshchyny united newspapers, Zolochiv village, Kharkiv Oblast.

The publication was prepared with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of the Ukrainian  Media Business Association and does not necessarily reflect the position of the European Union.