Wolfgang Spindler of Euronews: Today’s journalists have to make it simple to make it work - PHOTO

Wolfgang Spindler of Euronews: Today’s journalists have to make it simple to make it work - PHOTO

29 October 2019, 16:48 4106
We met last year at the 10th Gabala International Music Festival. His colorful style, pleasant aura, sincere conversation, and his different outlook on life caught my attention. This time, he was in Baku for the Baku Jazz Festival, which took place on October 18-27. We had been planning on meeting for some time and finally did so on the shores of the Caspian Sea. My interviewee is Wolfgang Spindler, Producer, and Head of Le Mag and Cinéma at the world-renowned Euronews channel. He noted that this was his 15th visit to Azerbaijan and he comes and goes three times a year on average when there are important cultural events here. This year he came to Azerbaijan to attend the Gabala Music Festival, Nasimi and Jazz festivals.
- What are your impressions on Azerbaijan?
- The people are very nice. The city has changed a lot. It’s very clean. The food is good and the women are beautiful.
- How about your favorite local dish?
- I cannot tell because whenever you eat in Azerbaijan you eat many things. Yesterday we ate very delicious fish. Your herbs, and the meze at the beginning with the tomato sauce, and the cheese is just excellent. I was very lucky because during my first visit I had a driver and a representative from the Ministry of Culture appointed as my assistant. The first night they took me to a very chic Italian place and I said, "No, no, I want to eat where local people eat,” and I told my driver, "You are the restaurant guide. Take me to every restaurant you would take your grandmother on a Sunday afternoon.” So, he showed me many restaurants. He even took me to a place on the outskirts of Baku where the poor people live. And we had a very rich meal - "Khash” at 5 o’clock in the morning.

- How do you evaluate Azerbaijan's culture as a cultural reporter?
- Well, that’s difficult to answer because I make music, I organize exhibitions. So, culture for me is mugham music, some artists I meet. And of course, there is a very old tradition which dates back to Nasimi. So, on one side you have the culture here – the mugham music, the artists. But then you also have this very long tradition of Azerbaijani culture which goes back to Nasimi.
- How long have you been working in journalism?
- Well, I was born in Germany. I have a master’s degree in political science. I worked as an actor in the theatre for 3 years...
- Two different worlds – politics and theatre.
- Yes, two different things – two different worlds.
- How does a political person also become interested in theatre?  
- My father was a musician. He played the accordion and was a conductor. My father’s family had a traveling theatre company. They performed from town to town in a caravan. So the interest in theatre comes from my father’s side of the family.

- When did you first start working as a journalist?
- When I studied at university I was already working on television to make some extra money.
- And how long has it been?
- I would say around 35 years. I held various positions at German television. Then when Euronews was founded in 1992, I applied and got hired. I moved from Germany to Lyon, France, where I am currently residing. In 1994, I was nominated responsible for cinema and culture.
- What is your work schedule at Euronews?

- The work consists of several things. From one side, you work on videos sent from various agencies, such as Reuters, APTN.  On the other side, I go out, I travel, I film, and edit.

- Euronews is a world-renowned channel. What's the secret to its popularity?
- First, you had CNN as the first news channel. Then there was Euronews. We started out broadcasting in 5 languages simultaneously. Today, we broadcast in 10 languages. The way we see the world, is a look from the outside, maybe more objective. And also due to the fact that we broadcast in several languages, our program, our coverage is richer, more diverse. And then we invented a product everybody knows – no comment. It’s this little thing without commentary, only the pictures speak. It was something new. I even know the person who invented it. And today everybody knows "no comment”.
We would like you to talk about the channel's culture programs.
- Well, I am now working for the news, and for the magazine.
- So you also have a magazine?
- Yes, in a way, I am a journalist, but I am also the producer at the same time. I go out, I film, I choose the content for editing, interviews, I write the commentary in English and then I have 10 colleagues translate it.  
- Do you think that age matters in journalism?
- Yes, because today logistically we want to make things cheaper and cheaper. Young journalists are not expensive.
- But journalists of a certain age have more experience.
- Yes, they have more experience but... First of all, the position I hold is very limited. I have a very privileged position in this sense. You might have 5-6 positions in the whole company like this. I am lucky to have this job for 25-26 years. There is a lot of jealousy. A lot of people want to do what I do. And every two years you have a new boss. Either it’s a new editor-in-chief or a new program director. Then you restart and have to prove your worth from scratch. When you are older you have the experience, you have a certain idea of quality. And this idea of quality might not be adapted to what the company and management are looking for today. Because we want to produce cheaper, we want to spend less money. This means today I have many things to do. I have to do the editing by myself. I have to revise it over on a computer. We used to do it in a studio with a sound mixer.


- Isn’t it better to get things done at a cheap cost?
- Cheaper means you have less time to be creative. You have less time to get different approvals. For example, when I do my voice-over on a computer by myself, nobody is listening to it but me. When I go into a sound studio there is a sound technician who knows what it is about and maybe he has done other language versions. And sometimes he comes and says, "Oh, you are talking here. Nobody else was talking here. Are you sure?” And you check and say, "Oh, no, I should leave the music here, I should do this...” So there is somebody from the outside who can give you advice. Now it is very limited. You do the editing by yourself, and you might be a good journalist, but probably you are not a good editor. But you still do it by yourself. We have journalists who go out with their phone and they have to film by themselves. So you have to think about journalism, you have to think about the person you are talking to, you have to wonder whether the picture and sound are good or not. That means what you are doing needs to be simple because otherwise, you cannot do everything at the same time. Usually, you go out with a cameraman and a sound operator if you want to have a certain quality.
- Journalists are reluctant to leave the editorial office in light of modern technology. Do you think that technology discourages journalists from being more active?
- Well, it’s a question of money. When you send somebody out, it costs money. As you said, with modern technology now I can send my video from Azerbaijan to France in a matter of seconds. It used to be that 10-15 years ago if you wanted to send a video from Azerbaijan to Lyon, you needed a satellite. You would have to visit Azerbaijan’s television and book a satellite, which would cost you 500 euros. Today it is much cheaper. Everybody can be a journalist with a phone. The problem is if you are a good journalist, you might not be a good cameraman with your phone. So, you make it simple to make it work.    
- And how was it in the past?
- We had more time to make it more elaborate and of good quality.
- You have a very colorful style. Is this because of your inner world or your profession?
- I work for television. So if you dress in a way which is very visual, people will recognize you much easier. And many people like my style. So, when you come to an interview, you might have an interview with Gerard Depardieu or Oliver Stone, they look at you.
-What are your thoughts on becoming famous on social media?
- It’s true, everybody can become a star. In the 1960s, American artist Andy Warhol once said, "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” And today everybody can become a star. Are you interested in people who are a star because they follow fashion? They don’t even write, just take photos. Does it mean anything for you?
-How so?
- See, if you are on Facebook everybody knows you are old. Because on Facebook you have to read, whereas on Instagram there is no need. You just look at pictures and like them without even having to think about it.
-That is, you say that Facebook is for people of a certain age, because it reflects long articles, thoughts, and feelings. Young people love images more and use Instagram?
- It takes time to make interesting content on Facebook. On Instagram you just take photos. Not many people can be bothered to read long pieces of writing on Facebook. 
- You travel around the world in pursuit of music and culture. Which is the most beautiful place in the world for you?
-There is no best place in the world – it’s always what you expect. If you want to go to a country where the whole country loves music, when there is a festival you have thousands of people every night, you go to Morocco. And if I want peace, I go to my house in the mountains where I don’t have the Internet, mobile phones.
- Have you ever found love while traveling?
- I don’t have much time to look. If you find love, you get out of focus.
Khayala Rais
Esmira Huseynova (interpreter)