The editorial office of Samegrelo-Upper Svaneti information center (livepress.ge) was getting ready for the presentation of its new website having unexpectedly learnt that drunk policemen were shooting guns at the priest's assistant's car in the church yard.
The editorial office decided to deliver the news to the public through the new website therefore without waiting for the presentation date the website was launched few weeks earlier, on May 5, 2011. "The story about policemen was promptly disseminated and more people learned about our website than the presentation would have made it possible," says Geornti Kalichava, Editor, livepress.ge.
Livepress.ge is now operating at full load and delivers news to the readers in Samgrelo, Upper Svaneti and Abkhazia. The website was created following the initiative by the nonprofit organization Media Foundation. Geronti Kalichava, Council Chairman, Media Foundation points out that they haven't thought of creating any other mean of media but online edition. "We wanted the whole of Georgia to make aware of the events ongoing in the region. Setting up a television requires huge sums, disseminating news through internet is the cheapest and most convenient," the editor clarified. A greater part of the population in the city uses internet, the village dwellers are gradually getting connected to internet.
The editorial office is manned with nine employees, four journalists out of them are working in Zugdidi. They have a special correspondent in Sokhumi, Poti and Mestia. The rubrics posted on the website include politics, economics, conflict, law, society, culture. The Georgia rubric covers the events ongoing in other regions across the country. In addition to news the users have access to analytical publications. "We cover the news that might be of public interest. We focus greatly on IDP and local budget-related issues," says Kalichava.
The website publishes blogs as well as weekly diaries by individuals of different professions. Livepresss.ge aggressively posts multimedia materials and audio stories. The editorial office has got appropriate equipments - video and digital cameras, voice recorders - to cover news in the aforementioned format.
The website, says Kalichava, has got 300-400 daily visitors on average. The users include Tbilisi residents as well as the dwellers in other cities.
The news provided by livepress.ge is usually followed by deep resonance and response. The policemen severely roughed up a young guy, the editorial office was notified of the incident and provided photos by the mother of the victim of physical abuse. The event was followed by a serious response. On the following day the head of the police department was dismissed and the investigation was launched. Only afterwards national channels provided the coverage of the story. "Whenever we single out a particular topic and follow it to the end they do response. That's they way it happened when we reported on water-related issue. Local Tskalkanali (water utility) representatives repaired the damaged pipe," Geronti Kalichava recollects.
The materials delivered by the Abkhazia-based correspondent, says the livepress.ge editor, are most readable. "People are eager to know how the things are on the occupied territory. The stories delivered by Amra Adleiba are timely, and most importantly, accurate and reliable," the editor clarifies. The publications are followed by no response from Abkhazia which, Kalichava thinks, is due to the lack of internet access in the region. Amra Adleiba works freely in Abkhazia, facing no barrier when gleaning info and sending articles.
To distribute publications the editorial office is aggressively using social networks.
Livepress.ge was made possible thanks to the financial backing by the Open Society Georgia Foundation. The project is due to end in September therefore the editorial office will have to raise funds through other sources. They tried to attract advertising but they found it difficult. "It's hard to attract advertising in the region, I cannot understand the reason, political motive or they are just unwilling to place ads," says Geronti Kalichava aiming to get more active in terms of commercializing the website. The website is also planning to improve the webpage interface.