Life as an Editor of an Alleged Communist Website about Croatia Promoting Greater Serbia

Total Croatia News

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One of the most interesting complaints about my writing about Croatia over the years – in a highly competitive field, I might add – was the following:

“It is not fair or right that a foreigner should be having the best tourism information site about the island of Hvar.”

My apologies for working for four years without a single kuna of official assistance to produce almost 8,000 articles and a guidebook for Hvar in that time. It was rude of me to do that pro bono work when I should have left it to a local. 

Moving into Croatian news was always going to be a more challenging kettle of fish, and the last seven months have been quite a discovery, both in the rapid growth of the site (almost 40 writers) and in education about the opinions of the wider Internet community with an interest in Croatia.

Apparently I am an anti-Croat communist in the pay of some place called Greater Serbia, something I am reminded of at least once a day, and if I am not, I begin to worry that perhaps nobody is reading our articles. 

As we have grown so quickly (and with more than 30 writers agreeing to write for the site, including a former Croatian Prime Minister, it would appear that at least 30 people think we are doing something right), I have called an editorial meeting for the TCN team in Split today to discuss the way forward. I am genuinely humbled that so many diverse and engaging people have embraced the project, a project which currently is 100% independent and receives no funding, Communist, Great Serbian or otherwise (sorry to disappoint). Our writers, like myself are almost all volunteers at this stage, believing in a project which is growing nicely, and I am humbled that they have joined in such numbers and with such quality. 

As with any all-inclusive project, it is good to get the feedback from readers, and depsite the levels of abuse which I happily digest with my morning coffee these days, I was keen to ask for suggestions on the direction of the site, particularly with regard to politics, and so I decided to enlist opinion on the TCN Facebook page on February 15, 2016.

Ah, politics in Croatia. That nest of vipers, which of course (like everything else in Croatia) as a foreigner I will never understand. 

When planning TCN, I wanted to avoid politics. I am a big fan of Croatia Week, which does an excellent job as an online magazine and has its sizable niche, but I wanted to offer something more newsy, day to day news about Croatia, business, tourism and… well politics is unavoidable if that is the goal.

The reactions to my Facebook post genuinely surprised me, and thanks to all for taking the time to respond. I was expecting lots of abuse, but instead all responses had one thing in common – there was not a mention of Communists or Greater Serbia. Not one. Instead, some very constructive comments, VERY constructive (thanks again), and the general message I took was that we were doing quite well except in one area.

You guessed it – politics.

In my head I was thinking of reducing the political content now that the elections and mosturbation was over, the new government in place, but it seems that people want more, but they also want more balanced politics, as TCN is too far to the left politically apparently.

I agree with you.

It is not deliberate, and there are two points to note here.

1. TCN is open to all. There is a section on our site, which has been there from the first day on the homepage, called Send Us Your Croatian News – here is what it says:

“Send us the Croatian news where you are.

What is happening in your town in Croatia, or your Croatian community around the world?

A key concept of Total Croatia News is an attempt at citizen journalism, where we encourage people with an interest in Croatia to promote the news wherever they are. If you would like to have your news featured on the site, please contact us at [email protected]

Our preference is to receive contributions in English – we can edit them – and any photos must be copyright-free and with the appropriate accreditation.

Join us on a project to project Croatian news to the world in English!”

So far, quite incredibly, more than 30 people have, and their views, news and events have shaped the site. We welcome all contributions about Croatia as long as they are coherent, well-written, newsworthy and not from the Donald Trump School of Insults. So if TCN is too left-wing for you, do something about it. 

2. TCN started in July and only really got serious with political coverage (which by the way is 99% direct translation from across the Croatian media) with the elections in November. Since that time, I hope we all agree that politics in Croatia has been something of a farce, and we have tried to cover as much of it as possible. In any normal political situation, there would not be so many jaw-dropping stories, and there would be therefore be more time to look at issues, but both during the period of mosturbation and the current government, the great leaders are providing terrific content without really trying. A common reaction I see when something negative is written is to drag an incident from the past and ask why we don’t write about that. 

I want to focus on what is happening now and in the future (did I mention our volunteer status?), so if we are not covering something on the site you think is important, and you have something coherent, well-written, newsworthy and not from the Donald Trump School of Insults, our doors are open. 

I am genuinely excited about the way TCN is going, and the reactions we have had. I hope it becomes an even more inclusive source of information and debate for the wider Croatian community internationally, and I thank you for your early support and interest. 

A word on the national tourist board while I have your attention, as I have been accused of attacking them unjustly. Again, a little like the current government, they are writing their own script in recent days in quite spetacular style. The lifelessness in Slavonia, the Waste of Croatia and the Dubrovnik video in Marco Pololand were all generated by them. The only contribution I have made was taking a closer look at Croatia365, which is a project I am particularly interested in, given my work on Hvar and Inland Dalmatia. And, in the spirit of openness with which TCN operates, I called the Ministry of Tourism yesterday with some questions which have been forwarded to the head of PR at HTZ, and we will publish those answers when we receive them. My questions are below – I think they are all valid.

1. Croatia 365 is now 18 months old, and was unveiled with great fanfare in August 2014. How would you assess the progress and success of the project so far?

2. Looking at the official website, there seems to be a worrying lack of information in some of the six target sectors. In business, for example, there are just 2 regions mentioned after 18 months, despite 22 starting the project, in cycling 8 and in wellness 7. Can you explain why?

3. Taking a closer look at one example to illustrate a point, we looked at one of the cycling options called the Aurea Pannonia. There were links to three local tourist boards for more information. One had the account suspended, another was in Croatian only, and the third claimed to be in English, but only had information about cycling in Croatian. How are potential tourists supposed to find out information when the delivery is so poor?

4. When the project launched, this is how it was portrayed:

“The Ministry of Tourism will focus on improving facilities and activities in those areas to make Croatia an all year round destination, and it will also be backed up with an intensive marketing plan. In September marketing campaigns will start in all of Croatia’s main markets in Europe. The 22 destinations which are included in the pilot project have guaranteed that at least 50% of all tourism and restaurant facilities remain open outside of the main season.”

I was in Hvar Town last week and not a single restaurant, apart from one in a hotel, was open. This is not atypical of the situation in other destinations. How is that possible when the project was supposed to deliver 50% opening?

5. Are you satisfied with the quality of the information on the website promoting Croatia 365? In the cuture section for Hvar and Vis for example, there is not a single mention of Hvar’s UNESCO heritage (the only island in the world with 4 UNESCO heritages) or the oldest public theatre in Europe. With such a lack of quality information, how are you supposed to attract tourists?

6. What would you consider to be your biggest success with Croatia 365 and what will be your focus for 2016?

7. Turning to tourism promotion in general, the media has been reporting on your latest way to promote Croatia with the line ‘Croatia will waste your time’. Many commentators are convinced this was a linguistic mistake and not a deliberate attempt to attract attention to the national parks which were being promoted. Do you stand by that, or are you willing to admit it was a mistake?

7. There was considerable anger in Slavonia about your latest promotional video Where the Horizon is Always Golden, as despite Croatia being ‘Full of Life’, not a single human being appeared in the video. Comments about the video have been deleted, and the only impression we are left with is the number of dislikes outnumbering the likes. Can you comment on that and explain the thinking behind the video?

8. Several people have contact us saying their comments have been deleted from your official Facebook page. While that is understandable for abusive messages, they claim that there were simply expressing their democratic opinion without abuse, but still they were removed. What is your policy on removing comments from your social media pages?



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