I was a newcomer to the Spectator team in early 2009, when the world was bracing itself for the impact of the financial and economic crisis. In my first year as a staff writer, my colleagues and I would write countless sentences, and proofread numberless pages, containing the word crisis, crisis, crisis... ad nauseam.
The ten years that followed marked some good times for the country and for the Slovak Spectator. The economic revival brought new opportunities, and allowed us to start new projects both in our news service and in our travel section. But they also brought some of the hardest moments in Slovakia’s history. The murder of a journalist, obviously, stands out.
The killing of Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnirová, and the aftermath of that terrible event in 2018, reminded us of the mission that defines our role: to deliver information that is grounded in facts, set in context and written in clear language, to the public.
Suddenly, the world was looking at us much more attentively than in the years before the murder. Our sense of responsibility was renewed, and became more actual than ever before. The sleepless nights that every journalist worth their salt experiences from time to time grew in number.
That recent experience is also the reason why journalists’ encounter with the pandemic is strangely and surprisingly familiar – the past two years have taught us a lot about our vocation. The Slovak Spectator is here because throughout its 25 years the people who have worked for it have understood that they are often the only window into the reality of life in Slovakia for the community of foreigners that live here, and have been humbled by their task.
As that community has grown and changed, so too have we.
The Spectator was born in a moment of political crisis – how else could one describe the 1990s in Slovakia? – and it is in its DNA to be able to deal with such situations, and work under pressure.
We journalists also have the good fortune of being able to turn to our work in moments of crisis. To actively seek answers, and help people understand, is unexpectedly comforting. We’ve experienced this many times in the past 25 years. There have been dirty election campaigns, revelations of corruption and moments of high tension before – such as when a fascist was elected regional governor, or when a natural disaster has struck, or when Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová were murdered – and we’re experiencing one today. We are playing our part now by reporting on the pandemic, and the response to it.
Journalism, as ‘the first draft of history’, can sometimes be messy – we know better than anyone that the stories we write can always be improved. Our role is to confront readers when necessary, but also to comfort them when panic mounts.
We are honoured to work on this never-ending assignment. Thank you for being our readers.
Read more from The Slovak Spectator’s 25th anniversary issue:
24. Apr 2020 at 7:00 | Michaela Terenzani