THE LAST DUMKA? EDITORIAL COMMENT (IN ENGLISH)

01.07.17


dumka-13-2017-07-01.jpg

 

UD. 1 July 2017.   

Dumka has been a constant in the life of AUGB and the Ukrainian community since 1947. In those days, newspapers and the radio were the only sources of news for society in general, but Dumka served other critical purposes for the Ukrainian community who found themselves in various corners of Great Britain after the war.

It was, above all, a unifying force – fostering and strengthening the sense of community for all those who were in a strange land far from home and their families, with no idea of how or when they would ever return. Equally, it provided news and commentary on issues close to the hearts of Ukrainians in a way that no other media could. 

Subscribing to Dumka was virtually a given. In the same way as those post-war immigrants willingly gave a shilling a week (now roughly worth £2) out of their meagre wages to the Mutual Aid Fund to help those who were less fortunate, so too they felt that maintaining a Ukrainian printed newspaper was a personal obligation: if they themselves did not support the newspaper, no-one else would. 

Dumka has changed significantly over the years: from a typeset news sheet laboriously copied by hand on an old Roneo, to a fully computerised colour printed newspaper. The political and editorial content has evolved to include more articles in English to reflect the changing audience. Dumka is read in many countries overseas, including Ukraine, and several other diaspora newspapers are modelling themselves on the Dumka format.

However, the external environment has changed even more. Now, the vast majority of people have access to the internet and social media. News from Ukraine can be accessed 24/7 online, and through satellite TV channels. Twitter and Facebook have radically changed the way that people access news – both national and community news – in real time. Demand for printed newspapers is rapidly declining. In the last two years alone, almost 200 mainstream media local newspapers have closed down or merged and even those national newspapers with a strong online presence are struggling to sign up subscribers.

AUGB itself has experienced this change in many ways. Subscriptions to Dumka have declined year on year as the number of subscribers of the first generation has naturally declined without any counterbalance from new subscriptions. At the same time, our Facebook account – on which we try to post the most important news from Ukraine and events in our own community – now reaches an average of 10,000 people a week all over the world, but has peaked as high as 60,000 on a few occasions. Our Twitter account has almost 1,000 followers and the ripple effect of retweeting means that some tweets reach tens of thousands.

While many quite rightly have a strong emotional attachment to Dumka, it is clear that it no longer meets the needs of a modern audience with different expectations. And indeed, there is no longer a homogenous audience. Dumka readers are as varied as the diaspora itself. Those from the first generation still generally want to access news from Ukraine in Ukrainian; the second and third generations want more in English; the fourth wave of Ukrainians want content that is more relevant to them. 

The cost of compiling and printing Dumka is not the issue. We have struggled to find a long-term editor who understands our diaspora and is prepared to do much more than just edit, and advertisers want to see evidence of a large reach to justify expenditure. As a result, the newspaper has survived so far through the work done by a small team on top of their day jobs and voluntarily. With a continued declining subscription base, this is not sustainable.

Two consultation exercises were carried out early this year, asking branches to consult their members about the future of Dumka. The few who replied generally agreed that a printed newspaper was unlikely to have a future and that the solution was more likely to lie in on-line communication.

In the light of the comments received and in the face of dwindling support of the newspaper, the AUGB’s Board of Directors, with a heavy heart, has taken the decision that, after 72 years(!), Dumka cannot continue to be produced and should cease publication with this issue. 

What all this means is that the way in which AUGB communicates with its membership and the wider diaspora needs a reset. And this is exactly what the AUGB Board will be focusing on in the months to come, including a revamp of the website, and strengthening our online and social media presence. Crucially, we will also be looking at whether there is a new future for a print presence, and what form this might take to be attractive to the whole community in the longer term. But this will depend critically on what our membership and community wants, whether branches are prepared to actively promote a print presence to increase subscriptions to a viable level, and therefore whether it is viable to seek dedicated resource for a print publication.

The AUGB Board would welcome the further views of the community: those who have been loyal subscribers, occasional readers, and those who have thought that Dumka is not for them. We hope that AUGB branches will lead the conversation with their local communities, and we look forward to feedback from everyone. 

Finally, our thanks to the teams throughout the years who have worked tirelessly to produce Dumka and to those who have consistently supported it. Dumka has played a key role in our community for many years, and we believe that there may still be an important role for it in the future. So, for now, we will not say ‘adieu’ to Dumka, but a hopeful ‘au revoir’. 


article-facebook.jpg 
                                   article-twitter.jpg  



Ukrayinska Dumka

IN THE LATEST UKRAYINSKA DUMKA

Great Britain The Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain has many branches throughout the country. Select a branch below to find out more information.