We talked with Alenko Zorinja, editor-in-chief of Hrvatska Rijec about the predicament of the magazine.
ZORINJA: Our troubles are of financial nature. Namely, despite constant increase of our readership, circulation and influence over the last few months, we haven’t been able to sell enough advertising both to local companies and international advertisers.
As some of the individuals we wrote about are still influential in the economy and actually create “market atmosphere” in which we work, I think that that is the main reason we were unable to win some advertising contracts.
Let me remind your readers that our magazine was the first one to write about three powerful lobbies that rule over Hercegovina, Prlic’s, Jelavic’s and the one including members of the Lucic family. Besides, Slobodna Dalmacija has also written about that.
On the other hand, SFOR, as the main international advertiser in Bosnia-Hercegovina has excluded us from its campaigns, although we are the only weekly magazine, and until recently the only publication in the Croatian language in Bosnia-Hercegovina. But, in that case it seems the key role was played by some locals who work for SFOR. From the leading circles of the international community we have received promises that our magazine, if it continued with publication, would not be discriminated in this manner, especially since we have proven our full dedication to democracy and professional reporting.
SLOBODNA DALMACIJA: How do you intend to restart the publication of the magazine?
Although we in Hrvatska Rijec do not believe in “activist journalism”, i.e. believe that market is the ultimate judge of whether a magazine should continue with publication, we do think that the publication of a magazine in Croatian language, especially one with tradition, such as ours, is in a sense important for the society.
With that in mind, we have approached several entrepreneurs and institutions from which we expect assistance and we hope that they will see that advertising in our magazine would be beneficial for their companies.
However, that support has not materialized, except in a couple of cases. Besides, I think that it makes sense that those individuals who have amassed personal wealth thanks to social conditions in the recent past invest some of that wealth into causes of public interest, especially if they failed to pay taxes, customs duties etc. for many years
To whom have you sent your appeal for assistance?
Yes, that was a sort of appeal for assistance. We plan to continue publication of the weekly on January 19, and that is why I said earlier that we hope that this hiatus is only temporary. We are still waiting for answers, and it is interesting that so far we have received only one reply, a rejection from the meat industry Lijanovic.
Besides, they have refused to sponsor our Christmas music-theatrical spectacle, as they allegedly do not have funds for such contributions. However, I am convinced that the true reason for their rejection is our recent series of articles about the ways their meat empire was created.
However, since so far they have bought very little advertising in our magazine and paid for it with meat products close to their expiration date, that rejection will not significantly affect our fate.
What is the real influence of your weekly? What was the circulation and readership of Hrvatska Rijec?
We used to sell about 2,500 copies. Although that may seem very low to some, it should be emphasized that Hrvatska Rijec was the highest circulation publication ever published in Croatian in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
Besides, because of technical problems of our print works, we were not able to produce bigger print runs, because we would be unable to distribute them in time. Thus, it was not uncommon that in many towns in Hercegovina, central Bosnia, and even Sarajevo, Hrvatska Rijec would sell out immediately after delivery to the newsstands.
I would like to use this opportunity to apologize to all of our readers who wanted, but were not able to buy our magazine. I would like to also mention our on-line edition, probably one of the best and most visited web sites in the country in general. Our estimate is that every edition of our magazine was read by up to 20,000 people.
It is really a small amount. Overall our debts are under $5,000, but we did not want, like some other publication, to continue building our debts.
There are many media that continue publication in spite of debts above hundreds of thousands of dollars, but we did not want to go that way.