Friday, March 14, 2008

Just Exhausted: Maybe it is both the miles and years? It's been a tiring trip so far....long work days for the TV station and then back to the hotel to work on my projects.

I went for breakfast a few minutes ago...not knowing whether it was to be served in a downstairs dining area or on the rooftop. It was the rooftop and Albanian hosts are tougher than I am. I had on a jacket but still felt cold. I suppose the best part is that it led me to come back to the room to warm up and take a few extra minutes to make this entry. The sun is shining so perhaps we'll have a really nice day.

My breakfast has been the same as in previous years....a couple of cheeses, olives, bread, sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. There are other things as well....some fruit--fresh and canned, almonds, dry cereal and some sweets--packaged cakes/cookies and also a tasty orange pound cake. The coffee has been good--filter coffee. (Somewhere in the blog--probably around April or May 2006, I think there's even a picture I made of a breakfast plate.)

An American friend, here doing news training, is staying at the Sheraton. They serve a typical American style breakfast buffet. I may actually go over there one morning just to have something different.

Tirana is much improved from two years ago. Street construction has been completed in the center of town. There are more shops open--and, more importantly, many of the places that were open before are still in business. I regard that as a mark of economic health. There's a grocery chain operating in the city called's pretty nice. The stores have good lighting, are well stocked and are clean. There are so few things to buy that I typically resort to a grocery store trip to find some presents for my family.

Politically, things are generally improving as well. The government moves slowly to reform but at least there is some movement. People tell me, "Yes, life is better today than two years ago."

My TV station has a new investment company that is building a fiber-optic ring around the city. They already offer high speed Internet but, by September, they will offer Internet, cable TV and telephone service. While the hardware and software for the system can be expensive, the labor and installation is somewhat cheaper. I suspect they'll build the company and then sell to a global telecom company once it has a market presence.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

I'M BACK: After almost two years away, I'm back in one of my favorite cities, Tirana, Albania, at Hotel President. I'm here to work with a couple of privately owned television stations in Albania--Vizion+ and Top Channel.

Tirana has changed--the first thing I've noticed is that the streets are mostly paved...though there's a lot of construction going on still, including an effort to build a gigantic traffic interchange that will improve the routing of vehicles at a couple of major intersections in the city. I've come to believe it's just better to build the interchange than to try to put in place traffic lights and conventional intersections. People here just don't seem to obey those conventional measures.

Commercial broadcasting gets taken for granted in the U.S. All we want is to watch our favorite entertainment shows but where would we be if we didn't have those stations covering local and national news? Life for most Americans is so good they don't worry much about the news--indeed, network news viewing is declining and has its highest audience among persons 55 and older. But, we can turn on the TV and see a newscast that we can believe is truthful and fair. There certainly are partisan stories from time to time but generally we get a balanced look at the world.

What about newspaper you say? Yes, newspapers really are more important to the coverage of routine local news--city council and local gov't stuff that isn't visual enough for TV. And, they're sometimes the sort of stories TV people are barely smart enough to know how to cover when you consider that a local TV reporter in a small market has little connection to the town.

It's different in Albania. There are many newspapers being published but many sell very few copies and they are expensive for the local readers. Television is the news voice that is free for the audience and it does serve as a check against government actions. Private television is especially important. Government TV was (and is) the voice of the government and that seldom means it's a free, independent, fair/accurate news voice--though maybe that can/will change. Anyway, I'll spend time offering ideas to help the stations run more effectively to improve their service and perhaps improve their profits.