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Magazine "NOUĂ", an original experiment in Chisinau

12 December 2014
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Interview with Sebastian PRANZ, editor-in-chief of the German Magazine FROH


More than 30 professionals with different backgrounds (artists, graphic designers, journalists...) had been working over the past days on a social independent magazine about Chisinau. The work started in mid-November, and in a few weeks the magazine has already be presented in a public launch event. The publication has been produced in the framework of the “Publish Yourself” workshop organised by the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) and conducted by Sophia Bellman, Sebastian Pranz, Klaus Neuburg and photo reporter Fabian Weiss.

The magazine appeared under the title “Nouă” and included reports from different perspectives and points of view. It will probably continue in the future. During the first week of the December, around 400 copies of the magazine has been distributed in the city for free.

We asked Sebastian Pranz to share his opinion about the work done and to say what he finds important when working on a magazine:


In Chisinau, such kind of magazine is a novelty. How did you come up with the idea?
As a journalist, I prefer to start with a broad and general topic that is not linked to a particular setting, but is timeless. Next, I try to narrow it down so as to make it distinguishable and original. I prefer to work this way because it gives me more freedom and, at the same time, it gives me the possibility to really surprise the audience with unexpected details after a general introduction.


How did you prepare your work before coming here?
Well, we knew that we were coming just before the elections, and our first feeling was that we had this tipping point for the future. But our aim was to provide our trainees with tools for telling their own story and make them open up to every idea. We used elections as a general atmosphere, a broader framework where in we could talk to people in the streets and find interesting stories.


Did you include any political content in the magazine?
On the one hand, strictly speaking there is no political content. But on the other hand, I think the everyday stories we told in our magazine can have a political dimension as well. I usually prefer to focus on this kind of stories, even if there is an important political event like elections, because they are less visible and not so many media are interested in discovering them. Also, it’s a matter of fairness: our project took just two weeks and we didn’t have enough information and knowledge to properly talk about political topics. Plus, political news is something that needs to be constantly updated; people want to read them only if they are fresh. That’s why, due to the fact that our magazine has a slower approach to journalism than a standard newspaper approach, we preferred to go deeper and find stories that are timeless and don’t “expire”.


Can you explain to us the publishing process?
I would say that it is a very personal magazine, made for a certain audience. So, it will naturally find its own way and spread among those who really want to read it. It’s not a magazine that you have to forcibly channel at a target, it’s more spontaneous. Participants presented their stories through their own perspective, and it might have made the process a little bit more chaotic than normally, because every problem with drafts, space and graphics had to be solved day by day. But this is also what makes it interesting.


What’s your methodological approach when you have to work abroad for a very short time like this?
I guess the most important thing is not to have defined ideas before coming, but to try to be “blind” at first and then to open up to any information and story people come up with. During this training we considered us as process moderators and we tried to only provide a proper framework in which people could work at their best. In this way you see that you can get more stories and more information than if you apply specific editorial guidelines or simply follow your own taste.


Nowadays anyone can reach a huge amount of data and news in the web. Do you think one of the main tasks of journalism is also to select and filter these data and news?
I think the problem is a little bit different. Think about Google: there is so much information that we cannot receive because Google doesn’t show it to us. It works like a huge “filter”, but it is a computer and it is alarming that a computer is actually selecting what we know and what we don’t. Therefore, it’s very important that journalists try to discover information and subcultures that otherwise would be overshadowed by the main data stream. And new journalists think like this: they are collecting particular information and stories and editing them for a broader audience rather than searching for the “truth” in a more traditional way. Journalists always have to keep in mind what they think is relevant and what is not when going through the entire flow of information. We cannot leave this task to Google or to a computer. 


Do you have some advice for the people who want to publish?
First, believe in your own ideas. You have to be aware of the fact that in the beginning you are the only one who believes in this idea. It’s not easy: you have to stand up for your idea. You may start to think it is not a very good idea, and if you have no strength to make the decision to follow it, it disappears. Then, if you manage to make it grow, you reach a point when it becomes more visible and other people may start to relate to it. Also, nowadays there are many ways to publish: it’s not necessary to get access to big newspapers or platforms. Of course, you will have to pay attention to which channel suits your idea the best, but you can definitely find a way.


Interview by Ruben Pulido (Spain), one of the authors who wrote for the magazine, and Francesco Brusa (Italy), both volunteers at the Center for Independent Journalism.