Some 30 kilometres from Chisinau lies the town of Criuleni. While there are dozens of media outlets in the capital, Criuleni has only one newspaper reflecting the life of this region. Today, we are heading to the Est-Curier editorial office. The newspaper's director, Elena Motricală, is waiting for us there.
Elena has more than half a century behind her, five children and a beloved job at the Est-Curier newspaper.
For 24 years, Est-Curier has been providing readers of the Criuleni and Dubăsari rayons with news from the region and stories from local residents' lives. Obviously, in the age of technology, people have access to many sources of information, but in what newspaper or website can people from 40 localities find articles written with such eagerness and love about their native towns and villages?
'The newspaper is a reflection of regional events. We focus only on local news, because people are interested in learning about their neighbours, about their locality. We stick to this focus because the Internet is full of other news. Everything local is closer to the heart. It's about culture, economy, agriculture, sports, less about politics,' Elena tells us.
The history of the newspaper began a long time ago. Elena and her husband, Gheorghe Motricală, studied at the same university, and both graduated from the journalism department in Chisinau. After that, they were sent to Criuleni for a short spell. Since then, more than 30 years have passed, and Elena is still in Criuleni. At first, they worked for another regional newspaper, but left as soon as they learned that the editorial policy was dictated by the district party committee.
Later, they put together all their ideas and courage and decided to launch their own newspaper. This is how Est-Curier was born.
'In fact, the beginning was a test, because the local press was in a difficult financial situation. We left Biruitorul, Opinia, but we did not see ourselves in another sphere. Yes, we could do other things, but it's our job to do what we can do best. We took the Media Law, a bank loan, went to the State Register, and this was the beginning of our adventure,' recalls Elena.
Over time, the newspaper has brought together many readers. Among them are those who have not missed a single issue since the launch of the publication and still read the newspaper's every page with great interest. Eugenie is one of such readers. The pensioner remembers pretty well how the newspaper's activities began, and every Friday she looks forward to new articles.
'I knew about the Est-Curier newspaper from the very beginning, from the moment of its launch, and I have been reading it ever since. From the newspaper, I learn first of all everything that happens every week in Criuleni. I can't imagine that this newspaper will no longer exist, because we are waiting for it,' says Eugenie.
Elena Motricală recalls that when she went to university, she had a goal: 'to make a good local newspaper.' She had an opportunity to work on TV, and worked on radio, but she remained in the printed media. This is where she feels most at ease.
The current circulation of the newspaper is 2,500 copies. It is published weekly, every Friday. The newspaper had better times when the circulation was higher. But 2020 was a very difficult year for the editors. In addition to the pandemic-related problems, the editorial office was greatly affected by the death of the founder and editor-in-chief, Gheorghe Motricală (Elena's husband).
'Last year was very difficult. First, because of the pandemic, to which the authorities failed to respond in the first months. People were scared, and there were problems with payment, post, and distribution. In addition to all these external problems, the editor-in-chief also died.'
Despite all these difficulties, Elena together with the editorial board decided that they needed to go forward: 'I knew I had to move on, because we have our readers. Besides, it would be a betrayal to give up rather than continue what we had started.'
The children helped Elena a lot: 'Gheorghe died on Tuesday, and on Wednesday it was necessary to get the newspaper ready for print. And the boy, 16-year-old Alin, came and made up the newspaper so that it reached the subscribers. The newspaper reached its readers on Friday. I have no right to be weaker than my children.'
The most difficult part for Elena was the bureaucratic one, which she took on after the death of her husband: 'Bureaucratic issues are the worst. This was done by Gheorghe Motricală, he had the strength of character, the patience to ‘chew’ every document. I used to say: I don't need it, I write stuff, I do it with pleasure, but life is such that you never know what you are capable of.'
Her children and colleagues not only supported her, but also encouraged her. Together, they decided to move on and confidently do so to this day. 'I am very grateful to the team, to Svetlana Cernov, because when I get confused, she says, 'let's do it', and we do it.'
Together with the editorial board, Elena learned about the European Union's project COVID-19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability:
'At that moment, it just became a ray of hope for us. At first we were hesitant to apply, but in the end we said, let's try, because it's not so much about us as about the readers of the newspaper. We were sure that we had support, we had something to bet on, and that we were not left alone in the middle of the sea without a boat,' says Elena.
The EU support helped them to publish the newspaper for a year. Elena and her colleagues managed to move forward and keep the revenues they invested in the newspaper's development.
'For the first time since we have been in this office, we could afford not to save on heating. Thanks to the help we received, we were able to raise funds and buy radiators. This does not mean that I spent in vain, just that we had different working conditions.'
The newspaper changed indeed in 2020. These are positive changes noticed by readers.
'Besides the fact that we have started reflecting on the pandemic situation, we have also focused on solution and investigative journalism. We have put an emphasis on a more detailed reflection of events. Since last year, we have been working more intensively on the Internet, and we have got results. There, we provide latest information. We also have a ‘Viața în direct’ column where we do surveys. There are many new things that we are learning, trying to be good at what we do.'
Currently, three people are responsible for content in the Est-Curier news department. According to Elena, they hold everything together. At the same time, the newspaper also has correspondents who share their opinions in publications. There are also student interns.
Elena hopes that the printed media will not disappear in the future. Perhaps they will change, perhaps they will become something elitist, but they will still remain. As for the Est-Curier's future, she would like to recruit more young people to the team: "I hope that some of the journalism department graduates will want to work in the local press. We will also support them if they need help, but the newspaper needs young blood."
If you are a journalism student and want to have an internship or are interested in the work of the Est-Curier newspaper, you can contact the editorial office at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or call the following phone numbers: 0248 2-09-46, 0248 2-10-36.
Elena says that she is just an ordinary woman who does what she loves, and for her it is more important than material goods. Her story shows us that the local press exists thanks to strong persons like Elena, who decided to do it and devoted her whole life to a local newspaper.
"COVID-19: Civil Society Resilience and Sustainability" is a project funded by the European Union and implemented by the Equal Rights & Independent Media (ERIM) NGO. The project aims to foster the resilience and sustainability of civil society in countries of the Eastern Partnership, in order to mitigate the immediate and longer-term impact of COVID-19.
Author: Elena Baranov