By Michael J. Jordan Foreign Reporting
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia – Katarina Jenkutova was the sort of student who makes teaching worthwhile. Two years ago, she was one of my 30 Slovak journalism students at the University of Saints Cyril and Methodius, in the provincial but historic city of Trnava.
They were cute and bright, yet also shy and sometimes lethargic. I had to scold several not to surf online or message friends during class. Yet Jenkutova stood out among the handful who seemed genuinely attracted to the kind of reporting I taught—serious, pound-the-pavement news features and personality profiles. I had high hopes for her future in journalism.
Then this past year, while sitting in a smoky Bratislava café, I was tickled to see her appear on the television screen hanging from the ceiling. Reporting, live! The volume was muted, but no loss: my Slovak-language skills would’ve only caught every fifth word. It felt great knowing she was out there, in the business.
For this article, I contacted her to hear where she is today—and why. Via blotchy Skype-video, she explained that she’s been reporting at the national news network for a year, as a correspondent from her postcard-perfect hometown: Kosice, Slovakia’s second-largest city.
The good news: she makes enough money to survive. The bad news is that she wants what so many young reporters across the industry want: guidance, for both the gratification of improving themselves and the desire to sharpen their (very marketable) journalistic skills.
The context, though, is very different in post-Communist Central Europe, where an authoritarian reflex toward the media is often visible in Slovakia and Hungary.