The editorial office of the newspaper “Nove Zhyttia,” operating on the border with Belarus in Volhynia, works based on this principle.

They say truthfully: if you want to be objective, be independent. Therefore, this principle has guided our team for many years. Realizing that objectivity would be compromised if the founders dictated their terms, we eagerly awaited the law on the denationalization of public media to come into force. Even before this, they did not receive virtually any financial support from local authorities. Therefore, we were happy to take the opportunity to become a completely independent media outlet. This implies delivering objective, unbiased information to the people and aiding in problem-solving without the need for explicit instructions or reprimands to local authorities. Yes, sometimes we become a “bone in the throat” for local officials. But the most important thing is that there is a return from the audience. A steady circulation, a constant increase in subscribers on our social media platforms – all this shows that we are on the right track.

But on this road, we constantly encountered one significant problem – the local authorities did not engage in a dialogue with people. We did not manage to become a bridge them. Until, with the support of the Ukrainian Media Business Association, the project “Understanding Through Dialogue” was launched. When local officials find out that a local publication in the community either conducts broadcasts, goes to villages, or prepares other problematic material with the support of the European Union, they refuse to comment or refrain from addressing specific problems, and the powerful individuals no longer hold sway.

We are looking for ways to overcome problems together

In fact, in every issue of the newspaper and weekly on the website, we post analytical materials about the problems of the local community. Where do we get topics? They are constantly prompted by our readers. Moreover, after a survey conducted within the framework of the project, which involved more than 700 people, there are enough topics for publications a hundredfold. But the main thing is not only topics, written lines that everyone will forget about tomorrow. This is an impetus to solve urgent problems that have been bothering people for years and that officials stubbornly ignore.

Videos about the life of small villages could be seen not only in Ukraine

Let’s name at least the last example that we implemented as part of the project. Three years ago, residents of one of the small villages in our community, Novi Berezychi, initiated efforts to create a recreation area on the riverbank. Certain individuals have set their eyes on this tasty place. And although the village council promised to resolve this issue back in 2020, it forgot about its promises. Until the problem was again raised by our publication. “And why bother with this matter?” the officials shrugged their shoulders. But we still had to respond to the appeals of journalists. The result: court sessions, numerous petitions – and the recreation area will now be legally established in Novi Berezychi.

“Only you can help us!” – residents of the large village of Zalazzia, where the stationary post office ceased to function, appealed to Nove Zhyttia. The operation of Ukrposhta is generally a sore point for our editorial staff, because the reduction of postmen significantly affects the subscription. So, of course, we couldn’t stand aside. In the dialogue with the leadership of Ukrposhta and the authorities, we sought mutual understanding for local residents. And we did it, the post office is functioning!

We have up to a dozen such examples of problem solving, which was achieved precisely thanks to the implementation of Understanding Through Dialogue. And this is very encouraging. After all, we managed to become a bridge that helps people and the authorities get along. On the other hand, they began to trust us even more. And this is already a responsibility and a desire to justify this trust. That’s why we try to respond to every request, every mail or call. And they have recently become much more frequent. Especially regarding broadcasts. People began to wait for them and even suggest topics. During these broadcasts, they can immediately ask questions and get answers from officials without unnecessary bureaucracy. Of course, this practice sometimes doesn’t please the officials themselves very much; some of them are even afraid to participate in such broadcasts or refuse to do so altogether. But our argument that we will inform everyone about the refusal to communicate online with people works perfectly: the authorities still go to the interview.

Live broadcasts with officials became the highlight of the project
We are satisfied with the results

We will not brag about how our role in the local community has grown, that we have become popular and important to people. Although this is, of course, the best result for us.

At the same time, the implementation of the project gave serious advantages for the sustainability of our company. During these two months, the website’s reach increased by six thousand. The number of subscribers to our social media has also increased. For example, on a Facebook page – initially with a thousand followers, and now it has grown to more than 18 thousand people –  and the overall reach on Facebook has increased by 186%. Several dozen more people now read and watch us on the Telegram channel, Instagram page, and YouTube channel. Given the abundance of topics for broadcasts and the ongoing requests from people seeking help with various issues, I believe this trend will continue in the future.

How the audience grew on Nove Zhyttia platforms

How to sum all this up? It’s very simple. We thank the Ukrainian Media Business Association for giving us the opportunity to realize ourselves in this way and to become a real bridge between people and the authorities. Of course, we extend our heartfelt thanks to the donors, with special appreciation for the material support provided by the representative office of the European Union. Without their contribution, local media like ours would not only struggle to survive but would also find it challenging to expand our audience. You gave us wings. And we’ve already learned to fly. So…Let’s fly!

AUTHOR: Nataliia MUKHA, editor of Nove Zhyttia newspaper, Volyn region.

This publication was created with the financial support of the European Union. Its content is the sole responsibility of “Nove Zhyttia” Private Enterprise and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.