Branka Vojvodic (HINA's director general): The corona-crisis has forced us to quickly progress in digitalisation and in the development of a proper online working system

From corona-crisis to earthquake crisis, HINA was one of the most affected news agencies by unexpected and tough situations. Branka Vojvodic, HINA's director general, speaks about resilience and finding the right mix between keeping employees safe and continuing to keep the public well informed through the newswires. 

HINA was severely affected by an earthquake almost at the very beginning of the pandemic in Croatia. How were those days for you as the manager of the news agency? What were your priorities? 

We’re talking about days that will be hard to forget. HINA has ironically had the misfortune of being met with two catastrophes simultaneously. Luckily while the earthquake took place there was only one person in the building due to pandemic restrictions which had people working from their homes. Despite all hardships HINA has been the first to publish news of the earthquake. During these times we had two main objectives: keeping our employees safe and promptly keeping the public well informed through the news we provide. I have to mention that during the early stages of the corona pandemic there was a lot of fake news circulating on various platforms as well as a general panic caused by both - the virus and the earthquake. It was HINA’s duty to put a stop to false rumours and ensure the public is provided with truthful information. The EANA Board has been gracious enough to validate our request and have revealed us of the fees we usually have to pay so I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their kindness. I would also like to thank our colleagues from the few agencies who have directly helped HINA during our hardships. Special thanks to people from PAP, ANP and DPA.

The ongoing pandemic disrupted businesses and institutions alike. What was the impact of the last few months on HINA? 

Despite having no way of knowing what kind of economic crisis we will face in the upcoming months, the thing that housed the most trouble is the state of our building that had been badly damaged in the earthquake and will need high cost repairs. One more thing that concerns me is the general economical state of the media market situation which is worsening and will certainly reflect on HINA’s incomes. HINA has recently rebalanced its budget by lowering all unnecessary expenses. In hindsight this situation has revealed the monumental importance of the proper functioning of news agencies and despite the problems we face HINA has greatly expanded its news output during this difficult time.

Did the Croat government get involved in helping HINA or / and other Croatian media during the pandemic? 

The Croatian government has taken a number of steps to ensure the preservation of our economy's proper functioning and number of available work spaces. HINA’s financing by the state has not yet been cut though we hope for financial assistance with the repair of our building when the time comes. HINA is currently in danger of two major financial threats: budget reduction by the state and lower income from the market since our financing relies on both sources almost equally.

Can you foresee the future of media globally after this corona-crisis? 

It is certain that the media market, as well as all other markets, will greatly suffer, but it is also apparent that the corona crisis has forced us to quickly progress in digitalisation and in the development of a proper online working system of which elements will certainly be used in future functioning of HINA.

Which do you think are the key learnings from this period?

In a professional sense I find that during a crisis the importance of journalism really comes to light. And as an individual, I would like to believe that we learn through tough experiences and hardships but honestly I can never be certain. 

Interview by Alexandru Giboi (EANA Secretary General) for the "EANA Top Voices" project.