Spot The Difference

Probably most people already know what sort of publication The Baltic Times is. Formed from the merger of two earlier and reputable newspapers that boasted input from ‘real’ journalists like Ed Lucas, these days it is something of a standing joke. But not a very funny one.

Justin Petrone has written a nice blog entry on the sorry decline of TBT here so I will try not to repeat it. Like him and many other Baltic-based journos, I have in the past worked for TBT and its occasional sister publications. Relying on a steady supply of fresh-faced foreign ingenues, gap-year students and earnest but ultimately disappointed editors, for years TBT has seemingly been on the verge of collapse, each successive weekly issue looking likely to be the last.

Yet it always struggled into some sort of existence despite the lack of anything that could accurately be called a budget, a staff or indeed a raison d’etre.

Resembling a poor-quality student magazine, any halfway decent competitor would surely have snuffed it out long ago, but the lack of any form of Darwinian competition meant TBT was able to keep on churning out the same old warmed-over press releases and letters from the same three people, safe in the knowledge that the various universities, schools and libraries that formed most of its subscribers probably didn’t even bother reading it and were even less likely to bother canceling a subscription taken out years ago.

The remaining editorial staff finally threw in the towel recently, somewhat miffed at not being paid for several months, so they claimed, and the publication such as it is has consequently built on its already high standards of unintelligibility and unintentional surrealism.

This week’s edition, put together by a man with big blisters on his copy-and-paste fingers, is well worth a look for several reasons. First there’s the headline news that a Lithuanian woman has triumphed in the massively significant “Mrs. Universe” pageant – a sort of obscurely-belted cruiserweight version of what are already irrelevant international beauty contests.

There’s also what appears to be a sort of Marinetti-inspired commentary on the equally vacuous New Wave song contest.

Oh, and there’s uncredited use of one of my very own copyrighted photographs! At least I think these two pictures are the same…

Image taken from the website of The Baltic Times. So sue me.

Image taken from the website of The Baltic Times.

Copyright Baltic Features 2009. I SAID COPYRIGHT BALTIC FEATURES 2009!

Copyright Baltic Features 2009. I SAID COPYRIGHT BALTIC FEATURES 2009!

It is of course possible that someone of exactly the same height as me was standing behind my left shoulder on January 30 outside the Estonian central bank and managed to catch exactly the same reflections in the windows, exactly the same lights inside the bank and the flags in exactly the same position  after the rain had stained the walls with exactly the same pattern, and was using exactly the same camera. But somehow I doubt it.

And while we’re on the subject of dodgy dealings, another client, freshly returned from holiday, rang yesterday to inform me that his publishing house had unfortunately filed for bankruptcy on June 18th, a fact he had previously neglected to mention during my numerous attempts to contact him about a large overdue payment for work I completed in January. I will refrain from naming this ‘reputable’ Western European publishing company for now, in the faint hope that his half-hearted assurances that I will see my money come true.

To my surprise, it seems this company has not mentioned its bankruptcy on its glitzy corporate website and I was told it had no plans to do so, which smacks of sharp practice at best and probably something worse. But rest assured that unless what I’m owed is on its way by the end of the month, I’ll be naming and shaming not just here, but to all of his blue-chip clients and advertisers.

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14 Comments

Filed under Baltics

14 responses to “Spot The Difference

  1. Topsy Krets

    Dear Editor! If TBT is such a mess, why do you pay so much attention to it? Envy?

  2. Topsy Krets

    By the way. Pictures are taken from different angles!

  3. Er, that’s called ‘cropping’ Topsy. The pictures are identical.

    If the pictures are indeed different it makes it rather strange that the TBT apologised to me for using mine.

    And you are quite right, I am deeply envious of The Baltic Times and its unique reputation.

  4. Topsy Krets

    What kind of reputation?

  5. Oh, no! The important Mrs.Universe story is gone. And now the photo resembles a chart downward, even though the headline reads the Estonian banks are building a cushion.

  6. Phil

    About the reputation.

    It appears as though the newspaper lags several months behind on paying its journalists — sometimes not paying them at all. We all read news in Leta and Diena about the Baltic Times staff that has been forced to walk out because of non-payment. The arguments from the management about “restructuring” of the company sounded rather unconvincing.

    It has a reputation of firing an editor-in-chief via SMS, who happened to be in the presence of his colleagues at the time of the firing.

    It seems the management is _only_ interested in making money rather than to invest it in a good, pleasant product. And it is not that difficult to see.

  7. I was talking about its reputation as the leading English-language weekly newspaper published in the Baltics.

  8. Topsy Krets

    No any comments about reputation except ”unique”?

  9. Not really, Topsy. As the only publication of its kind in the Baltics, its reputation is bound to be unique.

    Maybe the reason the various blogs write about TBT is that they are aware it is potentially a very important publication or they feel an opportunity is being missed.

    I wish you and The Baltic Times well. The best way to counter criticism is surely to produce a good publication.

    As you pointed out in your first comment above, we are paying far too much attention to this subject so I’ll not make any more comments.

  10. Topsy Krets

    It seems the management is _only_ interested in making money

    In your opinion ”making money” is not normal activity?

  11. Phil

    Sure, making money is a normal activity (that is why I used a little word that spells “only” in reference to making money) But is making money the end to it all? Should you not care that you have a happy productive staff that is willing to work and be paid for their work and ultimately make money for the Big Boss? Should you not care about your circulation? Readership? Reputation among readers and journalists? Does it not matter at all when you want to make money?

  12. Topsy Krets

    Regarding your philosophy, one should only CARE and there won’t be any problem at all! It is so easy…

  13. Topsy Krets

    The staff will be happy and productive, because of ”CARE”.

  14. Phil

    Caring by an employer can be expressed through a timely paycheck, as a form of appreciation for the time, effort spent on putting the newspaper together. Caring for a reader means fighting for every dropped subscription. Caring for circulation means aggressively selling ads (and not positive coverage). Is it easy? No. Will it solve all the staff problems? Probably not. But it will turn a newspaper from a sweatshop of journalists into a flourishing enterprise. Which also makes money.