STA English Service - From Runt to Mr Reliable in 20 Years
Ljubljana, 30 May - The English Service has always been considered a younger brother of sorts in the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) family. But its low domestic profile is deceptive, for this May marks 20 years since it was formally established as one of the first independent editorial units after the home and foreign desks.
Since 1994, the English news desk has grown from a fledgling service in English into a specialised news wire counted on by foreign readers as a source of reliable and up-to-date information from Slovenia. Its growth has run parallel to the development of the STA as well as Slovenia following its independence.
Indeed, the English segment was built into the very foundations of the STA when it was established in June 1991, in the midst of Slovenia's independence efforts. The agency's mission was to provide unbiased information on Slovenia to foreign media and institutions - in Slovenian as well as English.
Getting the news out in English initially relied on translation of Slovenian articles by translation agencies, but as the agency grew that system no longer satisfied the need for quick and reliable information, so a decision was made in 1994 to dedicate a small team to news in English.
Since then the English Service has reported on virtually all areas of daily life in Slovenia, including politics, business, arts, sports and human interest, with the aim of presenting a clear and true picture of developments in the country.
Whether it be the outpouring of love for Pope John Paul II on his first visit here in 1996, the shock of an Easter earthquake in Posočje in 1998, the jubilation in the streets after Slovenia qualified for its first major football tournament in 1999, the sense of excitement as Slovenia joined the family of EU nations in 2004, the responsibility of running that family during the EU presidency in 2008, or the efforts to deal with a painful and persevering economic crisis in recent years - the English Service has been there.
An archive of around 180,000 news reports published since its inception is testament to the fact that no milestone in Slovenia has passed without it being reported in English by the STA.
In this time, the English Service has also far surpassed its basic task of merely reporting the news. Its team now provides daily and weekly schedules of leading events in the country, an image service containing a selection of daily photos and tailor-made information products for individual clients.
The main subscriber base for the English Service is diplomats, as the daily wire is transferred to 30 foreign diplomatic missions in Slovenia and 65 Slovenian diplomatic outposts abroad as well as to over two dozen companies, media and expat organisations. The Service is also party to exchange with 18 foreign press agencies.
Looking ahead, its editor Eva Horvat says the goal is to remain the leading source of credible and comprehensive news about Slovenia. "The English Service will keep focusing on major developments at home, at the same time offering its clients new services and better ways of accessing them on the STA's planned new website."
As part of the STA's effort to join the online revolution, the English Service (together with the Slovenian news wire) in 1996 became one of the first Slovenian media outlets to utilise the power of the internet to distribute news.
More recently, it has expanded its presence to social networks, publishing content on both Facebook and Twitter, and running a series of specialised news portals dealing with topical issues.
After its humble beginnings working out of an office shared with the foreign desk with a team of only a few journalists who also doubled up as contributors to the Slovenian wire, the English Service enjoyed a growth spurt towards the end of the 1990s, coinciding with Slovenia's accession to the EU.
The efforts resulted in a self-reliant desk focused on providing information tailored to foreigners. This has laid the foundations for the present-day news wire, which sees ten dedicated full-time and freelance contribute around 40 articles a day.
"The guiding principle with which the English Service has evolved through time has been to provide a broader picture of goings on in Slovenia in a way that would help foreign readers understand what the country is about," says reporter Ela Petrovčič, who has seen the English Service develop from its baby steps to the present.
But EU membership, far from just coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the English Service, was a landmark in more than one way. Aside from imposing a significant workload, it eventually led to the departure of half a dozen regular contributors, who sought greener pastures in EU institutions as translators.
The English Service was arguably the single biggest Slovenian source of staff for the EU's translation service, though the departures to EU institutions formed only a small portion of the staff turnover over the two decades, in which time over 30 reporters and translators have contributed to the service.