It was mid-November 2006 when I approached Dardis McNamee, the Editor-in-Chief of The Vienna Review, exploring what this newspaper-project was all about. More specifically, I was interested to write an analysis about the widely incompetent political debate whether the city-funded Vienna Symphony Orchestra was reaching bankruptcy. My anger at the news reporting was grounded in the unsubstantiated debate, because, on one side, there was sharp criticism voiced by politicians – the infamous Kontrollamtsbericht (Report of the Monitoring Committees) of November 2006 at the beginning. On the other hand, there were media reports, even of Austria’s quality newspapers, like Der Standard or Die Presse, that misreported pension costs versus budgeting requirements which led to predictions that the orchestra had an apparent deficit of € 46.1 Mio in 2005.
My admiration for the orchestra and its musical traditions, my professional training as a conductor and musician, led me to write this story, strongly encouraged by Dardis, which was published as my first journalistic piece, under the title ‘Bean Counters Off Tempo’ for The Vienna Review (Dec-Jan 2007, vol. 4, no. 6, p. 25). This was a deep plunge into journalism, and my life certainly has not been the same ever since. I have written some 30 stories, reviews, commentaries for this paper, for which I am also professionally accredited since July 2007 by Presseclub Concordia.
About six months ago, I also decided that I would like to be much more involved in the development of the newspaper, particularly in organizational and administrative matters – and more recently, in what is called Business Development. Where do we go from here, I wondered in April 2007. I still wonder at times, but I have a good sense of direction. But let me explain what it is all about.
What is it all about?
The Vienna Review, published in Vienna since September 2006 by the Vienna Journalism Institute of Webster University (Vienna Campus), is Vienna’s only English-spoken newspaper. But by no means were those the beginnings, though since that time, we are distributed also on newsstand all over the city with kind support by Morawa. Jugendstil was the first publication that originated as Webster University’s student newspaper from 2003 to 2006 – a paper that I remember when I started my degree at Webster University in fall 2004. You can find the complete archive of the issues as PDF here. Due to financial restrictions of the project, Dardis took the step of restructuring the project by taking the paper outside of the Webster University into the international community of Vienna.
This is not just another commercial enterprise, a newspaper competing on the small Austrian media market, and fighting a restricting public media funding system that favors the large media outlets. This is a primarily educational project, training young journalists in their profession and aiding publication of their work early on, but at the same time providing a professional writing standard and editing. As for myself, I did not do any media studies at Webster or in any other academic institutions. I learned my new profession ‘on the job’ at The Vienna Review.
I had an academic writing background and publishing experience of my academic work, but building a newspaper – financially – out of nothing that hits now sales, was pure excitement, because most of the journalists today, when they start as interns, work on exiting resources and often do not know what it takes to start from the beginning. And, for young professionals, there is no equivalent anywhere in Austria to gain that experience.
A major change that we initiated was to go partly color by the September 2007 issue. A step welcomed by readers following recommendations by professionals. The visibility is much enhanced, and the sales increased on the newsstands, as well as subscriptions are rocketing since then. We also are very proud to announce that some of the leading Austrian commentators are regularly contributing to the paper today, like Anneliese Rohrer, former editor of the Austrian daily Die Presse.
Since October 2007, we also have acquired a number of Viennese hotels among our subscribers who offer The Vienna Review to their guests. From the start, we made copies of each issue available to a large number of coffee houses in the city, where visitors and inhabitants alike can read current Viennese and related international news while sipping their cup of Melange.
Blogging can be the journalism of the future, but instead of abolishing print, radio or television altogether, blogs can enhance the existing media appearance on the Internet. Why? Because, writers, in particular need to write, and blogs give them opportunities to write and publish stories any time they want and by that increase the quality of writing. But you will only be able to read the final product of The Vienna Review in print, every month (10 times a year) on the newsstand or in the post when subscribed.