The Visegrad Local Press Award, this year awarded for the very first time, honours publicists who offer the fullest answers to the questions about the essence and significance of preserving local identity in contemporary social, political, economic and cultural life. The contest fosters a mutual exchange of experience thanks to the participation of the journalists from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
We would like to highlight the importance of the local press in creating regional identity and open dialogue on regionalism and its function in the everyday life of communities. Moreover, our aim is to encourage public opinion to take a closer look at the neighbouring “micro- worlds” in various contexts: economical, cultural, social ones as well as that of local institutions.
The element which constitutes the common denominator of the local life in all the V4 countries is the integration with the European Union and the influence exercised on local communities by the EU funds. For this reason, we expect that some entries will start from the broad description of the EU projects and then pass on to their micro-scale characterization, i.e direct influence, either positive or negative, on local communities.
The journalists publishing in print editions of local periodicals, the Internet editions (incl. blogs) and local supplements to the national editions are invited to enter the contest. The entries may be submitted in the following topic-based categories:
- Local politics and institutions
The concept of the press as the Fourth Estate ascribes the controlling function over administration to the media. This role seems particularly crucial in small communities. The administration at the local level has important financial means, incl. the EU funds, at its disposal. Besides, it has key competences concerning local life – namely, it creates spatial order as well as shape social, education and health policy. In many cases, the administrative tasks of the state are delegated to the local authorities. Undoubtedly, it is a positive fact.
After all, the decentralisation of the state structures is one of the most essential achievements of transformation. The allocation of competences between the higher and the lower levels boosts the sense of ownership and responsibility for the country among its citizens. The decentralisation wields influence on the local media. Therefore, in the category “Local politics and institutions” we would like to award entries which account for the changing reality and provide legal support for citizens by explaining how the complicated systems of public services functions.
The delegation of competences “downwards” is also intended to increase social control over the actions of the administration and local government. We may pose a question whether it is really so. The local media, which perform the controlling function over the authorities, do not possess such funds as the central-level media. Moreover, the local authorities try to win influence on the local media – either manipulating the advertising market or simply blocking the information handed over to those newspapers which appear less favourably inclined to them. For this reason, in this category we will recognize the press material which satisfies the criterion of accuracy, while its author takes the risk of coming into conflict with the local authorities in order to carry out the controlling function of the media.
- Local economy
It is the easiest to describe economy in macroeconomic terms. Information regarding the national debt, the economic deficit, the scale of unemployment and the level of GDP may be effortlessly found in many sources. Furthermore, the data characterizing the local economy is nowadays no longer difficult to acquire. But what is hidden behind these numbers: what influence do economic decisions taken at the national level exert on the life of local communities? How does the global crisis affect the life of individuals? What influence does pure energy have on local economic development? How is local entrepreneurship changing? Is farming still profitable? What do transforming companies offer for their employees and
Entries providing answers to these questions are welcome in this category. Not only they, though. We also want to award works which describe the most interesting business enterprises, investments and their effects on local communities, as well as texts not avoiding the problems of indirect costs and those addressing economic issues in line with the rules of sustainable development.
- Local social problems
Journalism arises from the resistance to different sorts of injustice. The local media perform a special role in this context. A local newspaper is often the final resort, the only spokesman for those who seek in vain to be supported by anyone else. In this category we would like to recognize intervention texts and – what we find equally important – articles which change social attitudes in a communicative manner, e.g. by showing the experiences of people who in spite of adverse circumstances rise to the challenge of improving their situation. In the category “Local social problems”, the genre of report and various, also innovative modes of narration, are welcome. In a special way we will appreciate the entries resulting from the cooperation with readers and those works whose authors display deep sensitivity towards the social problems presented from the local perspective. The subject matter of this category embraces health, education, work, disability, non-governmental organisations and influence of the local authorities on communities. The authors are expected to explore the issues of poverty (or wealth!), national, ethnic and linguistic minorities, social exclusion… This list ends with an ellipsis because it is the broadest of all the categories.
- Local history, culture and heritage
We would like to recognize entries which:
• attempt to include historical threads in popular narration, e.g. by telling stories about
historical events from the perspective of an individual;
• promote cultural heritage;
• develop and preserve local identity.
In the cases of controversies or disputes between two opposing historical narrations, we will reward works which tone down conflicts and lead to greater understanding between communities.Of course, not only such entries will be appreciated. Thanks to the texts portraying local cultural conditions or historical events, the dialogue between generations and social cohesion improves too, while local communities gain a tool to describe their identity and uniqueness in the global village. We are sure that it is invaluable because today even tradition translates into money: societies which have preserved or reconstructed their cultural identity make it the chief asset in the fight for tourists and additional EU funds. In this category we do not decide which attitude is better: a romantic creation of a local identity or its pragmatic use for promoting tourism and ensuring one’s participation in international programmes. Good texts, irrespective of the represented point of view, will be rewarded.
- The influence of the European integration on a local community
Accession to the EU posed a new challenge for the communities of our region. Did they rise to it? The membership in the European Union fuelled certain fears: are they now, after almost 10 years, dispelled? What benefits do communities perceive in a local or individual dimension? We have grown accustomed to our membership in the EU, yet it has changed our everyday lives: new regulations regarding regional products, energy, ecology, agriculture, education or cultural exchange have been imposed. We profit from the EU regional policy – many investments in education, health, infrastructure would not be possible without EU funds. Yet, not only new opportunities, but also new challenges are arising: migrations, children whose parents went abroad in search for work, differences in earnings between European countries. In this category we are looking forward to entries which will show a different EU from the one presented on TV which is a Union of meetings, official talks, diplomacy and negotiations. We want to explore the EU from a local angle.
- The best local photograph
It is of little use to write about photos – they convey their message by images, not words.
However, we are conscious of the present difficult situation of press photographs, more and more often replaced with stock, universal pictures and thus deprived of their informative function. On the other hand, there is a growing number of people interested in photography as amateurs. In this category we would like to reward photos which fulfil their role of the medium of information about local communities in the Visegrad Group countries.
- The Visegrad Prize
The Contest Committee will choose the winner of the Visegrad Prize from among the entries
nominated at the national stage of the competition. It is a separate category: we would like to promote the knowledge of the shared problems and ingenious solutions found in response to them. The texts falling into this category may concern culture, economy, society or local institutions. The aim of the prize is to show the uniqueness of the states belonging to the V4 Group, their sense of community and joint initiatives, also those directed at the countries outside the Visegrad Group.
Works are to show the life of local communities. The contest categories are specified on the Web site of the project. The Contest Committee will also give one Visegrad Prize for an article which presents clearly the shared problems and the solutions worked out by the member states of the Visegrad Group.
The adjudication panel will consist of the representatives of journalism, the media market and
academic circles of Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia.
You are kindly invited to participate!