Opportunities and Challenges for Cultural Journalists in Ukraine: An Interview with Anastasiya Platonova

Anastasiya Platonova has been working in cultural journalism for seven years, writing for publications like ArtUkraine, Ukrayinska Pravda, Platforma, and LB.ua. Anastasiya talks about the importance of journalists taking part in international workshops and monitoring trends, as well as about Ukraine’s cultural potential.

Why did you get into cultural journalism?  

I’m interested in cultural journalism as an educational process. Since cultural studies are not part of the general education curricula, many events and phenomena that occur in the visual arts are completely lost on the wider public without translation. One of my many motivations is talking about interesting phenomena, people, and events. I believe that cultural journalism is also a form of advocacy, an opportunity to explain how local cultural reality works and why it matters.

What helps you grow in cultural journalism, and what are the vectors of development?

I believe that if you want to work in cultural journalism and write critique, lifetime learning is a way to go because it is a very specific line of work in the media. I don’t think that a cultural journalist necessarily needs an education in the arts, but he or she definitely needs understanding of the subject. Only a person that knows a subject deeply is allowed an opinion and an assessment. And opinions are what sets apart good cultural journalism and critique. What I recommend is to never stop improving yourself. It is important to read top professionals in journalism and publications that have the best cultural department.

It is also important to monitor trends, and in this sense workshops and internships are very important. For example, the EU-EaP Culture and Creativity Programme is now holding a series of workshops for cultural journalists from the six countries. For me, it is an opportunity to learn how the cultural media in those countries work. This experience is necessary to compare the problems and practices of other countries with those of Ukraine, to rethink my own work and to take a new look at the challenges and functions of cultural journalism.

What skills are the most important for a cultural journalist?

Everything is changing rapidly; the modern world is very different from what it was even 10 years ago. While in the past journalists were required to create content, today their work goes beyond writing a text. Nowadays, it is very important to disseminate content so that we reach the audience we want to communicate with.

The key skill of a journalist is to ask the right questions. It is the only way to articulate important issues in a text. But if you fail to reach your audience, if you’re not talking in a common language with it, then your work becomes meaningless. A journalist needs to stay abreast of trends in journalism and content marketing.

What is Ukraine’s potential in the cultural and creative sectors?

Over the last three to five years, I have seen a boom in the creative industries. There is a noticeable wave of emerging creative clusters, hubs, spaces, which become the focal points for the creative class and cultural events. Maidan was also a catalyst—several cultural projects and grassroots initiatives emerged from that wave. For example, Platforma—the online magazine, for which I worked for over a year—was relaunched as a proper publication following Maidan.

Now is a very good time for Ukraine, since cultural managers have realised that there are opportunities, they know what to do, and if not, they know where to get the necessary knowledge. For example, the EU-EaP Culture and Creativity Programme holds workshops for cultural managers where they can gain skills: starting with how to create a marketing plan or position a product and put it on the market, and ending with such visionary themes as advocacy and cultural policy.

Who impressed you the most?

I think it’s the British artist Gary Hume, who visited Ukraine a few years ago to make his solo exhibition Beauty at PinchukArtCentre. He belongs to the legendary movement Young British Artists, which created shocking protest works in the 1980s. He brought a very thought-provoking project to Ukraine. His thoughts on beauty in general and art specifically left an impression on me.

I also remember the interview with Tiberius Silvashi, in which he reflected on the experience of communicating with art. It was published in ArtUkraine and also made it into the book about the artist’s work.

My interview with David Parrish was definitely notable too. We talked about his book T-Shirts and Suits. This book is an excellent tool for those who want to turn an idea into a project—it is a must-read for all cultural managers in my opinion. 

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