The Greek media landscape is at once complex and simple, infuriating and inspiring in equal measure. The most recent World Press Freedom report ranked it 88 out of 180 countries, one of the lower ranks in Europe. It is hard to imagine good journalism emerging from a media system faced with multiple and multi-level crises, dominated by oligopolies, resistant to regulation and characterised by technological phobias and neo-luddism. And yet, despite all these factors, or perhaps because of these, a new kind of journalism has emerged: a journalism that elsewhere we have argued that is oriented towards society and its needs, and that turns its back to the givens of the past. Costas Efimeros and The Press Project spearheaded this shift. Unfortunately, The Press Project will now have to exist without Costas, who passed away on June 13.
The Press Project (TPP) began in 2010, in the early days of the massive financial crisis that has gripped Greece, with a dual purpose: to cover the crisis in a different way to that of the mainstream media, and to reflect on the kind of journalism that (Greek) society needs. As they put it, they wanted to explore the new citizen journalism and the emerging journalistic polity. To do so, they had to reinvent media economics: relying on advertisements was out of the question as these might compromise them so they pioneered an online subscription model based on membership, while allowing everyone access to their articles. The platform of 1100, as they called it, was launched in a high profile campaign in late 2015, which ‘duped’ a lot of people into thinking it was a campaign for the launch of a new party by Yanis Varoufakis – one of TPP’s most high profile collaborators. While the initiative went through some turbulent times, TPP is now sustainable, financed entirely through subscriptions. It is difficult to overestimate the impact that TPP has had in the Greek media landscape; they collaborated with the Intercept and Wikileaks, contributed to the Panama Papers stories, co-financed critical documentaries, and provided a platform to various commentators, helping to bring Greek journalism to a new level more attuned to both global developments and local needs.
Costas Efimeros was the heart and soul of The Press Project. Coming from a computer programming background, his software company BitsnBytes supported TPP financially until the subscription model started to become sustainable. Throughout, Costas pushed and actively pursued his vision of journalism. His legacy and the extent of his success will be the subject of much discussion in the coming months. At the very least, TPP paved the way for the launch of a new generation of journalistic initiatives, such as AthensLive.
Here at FuJo, we collaborated with Costas and TPP in the Safety Net project (2014-2015) funded by the European Commission and in other proposals. We are deeply saddened by his death and we sincerely hope that The Press Project will continue and that it will keep Costas’s vision alive.