20 years of Slovenian Press Agency (STA)
Years ago, an acquaintance of mine asked me who this journalist was, using the acronym “sta”, who was writing so many articles for a variety of newspapers. Of course, the question was asked half jokingly, half seriously, however, the work of the STA – Slovenian Press Agency – that celebrates its 20th anniversary only a few days before the Slovene state, is relatively unknown to the wider public. This is not surprising, as the press agency offers its news primarily to the media, companies, and state and other institutions. Its service has become available in a limited form to the ordinary reader only after appearing on the world-wide web.
Its beginnings closely linked with the birth of the Slovene state
The creation of the STA and the beginnings of its activities are closely linked with the birth of the Slovene state. The creators of the STA were already at the end of the 1980s aware of the importance of information for shaping the media image of Slovenia which was at that time on the threshold of gaining its independence. Such thinking bore fruits on 24 May 1991, when the contract on founding the STA was signed by the then Executive Council of the Assembly of the RS and by the company INI. A few days later, on 3 June, the STA was registered as a limited liability company, and Dejan Verčič became its first general manager.
Five days before the declaration of independence of Slovenia, on 20 June 1991, the STA published its first message informing the domestic and foreign public that the intent of the agency is “to provide current and rapid information to the foreign media and other institutions abroad on the events in Slovenia and at the same time to develop the information flow to meet the needs of the Slovenian media”. For a young state it was, indeed, especially important to ensure its own and independent information channel which would professionally inform both the domestic and foreign public on the current events. Jelko Kacin, who was then the minister for information, and his predecessor Stane Stanič, were very well aware of this fact.
The work in crucial days in the middle of 1991
In those crucial days in the middle of 1991, the work of a handful of journalists and editors took place in the premises on Cankarjeva ulica in the centre of Ljubljana, when the buildings were being flown over by airplanes of the then Yugoslav People's Army (JLA). The first news, that was often hand-written, was sent by telefax; these items were mostly brief reports on the events in Slovenia. In those days, the Agency operated as one, general editorial office; at the end of 1991 it employed a staff of seven, and its first editor-in-chief became Dušan Rogelj. The work took place already then in shifts, we, the journalists, reported from press conferences, summarised press releases, followed the reporting by the foreign press agencies and media, and took care to ensure that the STA news service was evolving into a “serious” agency service. The golden rule was, of course – independent, credible, objective and swift information based on facts and sources.
Today one of the leading suppliers of the news for both the domestic and the foreign public
In the years to follow, the STA was growing and developing under the management of the general manager Tadej Labernik; its news became an indispensible part of the Slovenian media space. In 1993, editorial offices for national and foreign policy were formed as the first two editorial departments, and a year later, economy, cultural and sports editorial offices. In the same year, an independent English news service started to operate in-house, while up to that time the news for foreign public in the English language was prepared by external translators. As one of the rare media houses in Slovenia, it also formed an editorial office for European affairs at the time of accession of the state to the European Union. The STA also put on its feet its permanent correspondence bureau in Brussels. In 1996, the agency also widened its presence in the media space to the world-wide web; 10 years later, a picture service started to operate, and two years ago the Agency developed an offer of radio news with sound clips.
The journalists of the STA report every day on the events at home and in the world; and an important source of information for a small national press agency such as STA are foreign agencies. STA, which has been a member of the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) for many years collaborates with more than 15 foreign press agencies, among them the American AP, French AFP, German dpa, Austrian APA, Croatian Hina, and others. The editorial system, which we use every day in our in-house work and which we endearingly named STAnka, is the result of own knowledge and development.
The STA was acquiring a role and recognisability in the Slovenian media space, and today it is one of the leading suppliers of the news for both the domestic and the foreign public. In a state-of-the-art "newsroom” on Tivolska cesta, where the Agency has its premises since 2001, more than 300 reports in Slovene on the most important events at home and abroad, and approximately 50 news items in English on the key events in Slovenia are prepared and published by approximately 80 journalists and contract collaborators, In addition to that, the STA has an extensive correspondent network across Slovenia and several permanent and contract reporters abroad: in addition to Brussels, it has a permanent correspondent in New York and contributors in Zagreb, Rome, Trieste, Gorizia, Klagenfurt, etc.
The market in Slovenia, due to its smallness, is quite specific. With approximately 200 clients, among whom are all the important Slovenian media, economic and financial institutions, state and other institutions, the Agency creates approximately 3.6 million EUR of net income annually from sales of services.
Four services of the STA – the core and the largest general news service, the English news service, the picture service and the radio news service – are supplemented by a range of other specialised services. These include: news and picture archive, daily bulletin, clipping, possibility of distributing original press releases via O-STA, news alerts - brief information in the form of news blocks and news strips, as well as content-related projects that are produced by the Agency at every important event on which it reports even more extensively (e.g., the Olympic Games, inclusion of Slovenia into the Euro-Atlantic integrations, etc.).
New projects of a well qualified and dedicated team of journalists and collaborators of the STA led in 2009 to the creation of a web page called the Crisis Mirror (Kr-og), which at the outbreak of financial and economic crisis brings an overview of the measures and best practices in Slovenia and abroad. Last year, a web page –“Think Slovenian" in the field of culture – was also added to the STA web contents.
In this year, the Agency launched, with co-financing by the European parliament, the project “Europe, the day after tomorrow” intended to present endeavours of the European institutions for setting up new development models. The STA also arranges attention-grabbing round tables on the topical themes under the auspices of its brand STAklub and thus increases its visibility.
The traditional status of authority of the Agency as the first one in the chain of communication of information is, actually, disappearing; the media environment is changing rapidly with the emergence of modern technologies which open up the possibility of applying new communication channels, Press agencies, both the largest agencies and the small national ones that operate in small markets and to which STA also belongs, are looking for a solution in the development of the range of new services and above all in offering the contents in a user-friendly manner. The development of applications for smart telephones and tablet personal computers is thus a new development stage, set as a goal by the STA.
On the threshold of its third decade, the STA is facing new tasks. Its status and future are linked with the understanding and support of the state for the development plans and with our own resourcefulness and insight which was typical of all teams of journalists, editors, photographers and other collaborators who were creating the image of the STA during all these years. To all who have stood and still stand behind the acronym »sta«.
Text by: Barbara Štrukelj, STA editor-in-chief