How Kharkiv’s Media Adapted to War

Production continues, despite almost no revenue and the constant danger of physical - and cyber – attack.

How Kharkiv’s Media Adapted to War

Production continues, despite almost no revenue and the constant danger of physical - and cyber – attack.

Most media content in Kharkiv has shifted online.
Most media content in Kharkiv has shifted online.
Tuesday, 3 May, 2022

The media in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has continued to function despite intense Russian bombardment since the start of the February 24 invasion. Now, media workers warn that the greatest threat to their continued coverage may be the lack of funding and advertising revenue to support their work.

The city, with a population of 1.5 million, is located in the east of the country close to the border with Russia and has been under near-constant rocket fire. Many journalists have left the city and most media content has shifted online.

"At first we had problems working remotely, but we adapted,” said Pavlo Fedosenko, who runs The Newsroom, a site focused on local social and political affairs. He said that most of his employees had left the city since the war began,. One reporter remained in Kharkiv, but without any means of transport was restricted in what he could cover.

“As for the content, now it's mostly news from the front,” Fedosenko continued. “We have a shortage of longer, high-quality materials. It is almost impossible to write long texts now… Everyone is only interested in the war.”

Although there were no plans to make anyone redundant, he warned that The Newsroom was in a perilous financial situation.

"The money in our accounts is almost gone,” Fedosenko said. “We have virtually no income. Now we have five per cent of what we did before the war because there is no advertising. We are trying to get a grant from the Lviv Media Forum so we can survive. We are also considering the option of attracting donors.”

Andrii Voynitskiy, editor-in-chief of local news website My Kharkiv, said that their revenue had also disappeared. Staff were working on an entirely voluntary basis, he continued, adding, "We can only support the news feed, with single articles being published. We’re now looking for an opportunity to find resources to return to normal operation.”

Larysa Hnatchenko, head of the Slobidsky Krai newspaper, said that they were surviving largely thanks to support from the Internews network, as well as donations from American colleagues.

Like other local print media, Slobidsky Krai had also shifted entirely online because of the difficulty of producing and distributing physical copies of newspapers. Their content was now solely available on their website or subscription e-newsletter.

"The print newspaper is not published, so there is actually no advertising income from it,” Hnatchenko said. “The only advertisement we have is Google advertising on the site, and it's a small amount.”

Other local media has also been forced to pivot. Before the Russian invasion, Kharkiv's independent outlet Nakipelo had its radio station and podcast series, as well a local news website and Youtube channel. Their headquarters also functioned as a media centre and venue for events and activities.

In order to survive, said Nakipelo chief editor Olena Leptuga, they had significantly reduced their output.

“[The radio] has suspended its work - now only podcasts are published," she said, adding that the website and social media channels were still working round-the-clock.

A newsroom in Kharkiv focused on news reports and recording people’s personal stories and experiences of war, while another to the west in Ivano-Frankivsk city was producing video content.  
Regional media have also had to change their output along with their platforms.

Pavlo Velytsky, head of the information service of the local Simon TV channel, part of The Objective media group,  said that it had become increasingly harder to produce news programmes given reporting restrictions.

“From the very beginning we did reports about the shelling. But due to the tightening of restrictions on the work of journalists in wartime we paused. We can made materials about preserving monuments, film concerts in the subway or about humanitarian aid. But [all footage related to the military] is forbidden by law. So there is a lack of content for [everyday] video news programmes.”

And as the war continues to rage, media outlets remain vulnerable to both cyberattack and real-world damage.

Yulia Ageeva, editor-in-chief of  Kharkiv Today, said that the site had survived two serious distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks -  a malicious attempt to overwhelm a target with a flood of internet traffic - in the last two months.

And on March 2, the Kharkiv Today office was destroyed after a blast wave knocked out all its windows and doors. Staff had continued to work in extremely challenging circumstances, she continued.

“[One] journalist, who lived in the city centre, worked almost 24 hours a day from the bomb shelter for the first week,” she said. “When the shelling increased, other colleagues had to leave the city.”

Now, the only journalist to remain in the city was the site’s photographer, capturing the destruction wreaked by the Russian army.

Like many other outlets, she said, Kharkiv Today now had almost no advertising revenue.

“But the number of our readers has increased many times,” Ageeve continued, adding, “"We remain in the Kharkiv region and believe in the armed forces.”

This publication was prepared under the “Ukraine Voices Project" implemented with the financial support of the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).

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