What’s your top story for today?
Today a top story on the online portal of our newspaper is an article I wrote last week about welfare benefits for the unemployed. I’m really proud that many many people in Hungary are reading the story right now. Briefly, the story is about an amendment that would take away some of the currently existing benefits or would turn them into in-kind contributions. It turned out that the government wants to issue plastic cards (like credit cards) charged with the benefits and people could use these cards only at designated shops. A few years ago there was a similar attempt in a small community in Northeast Hungary – the poorest region – where it turned out that the card could only be used in stores owned by members of the city council or their relatives.
Tell us about your dream assignment.
I’d love it if my best stories would not be about poverty, corruption and depression, but something that makes people feel good for at least a few moments.
Describe the wackiest story you’ve written.
A few months ago, I wrote about the industries based on prisoners and actually visited one of the biggest prisons in Hungary. It turned out that despite the economic crisis, they are alive and well. In fact, they are taking a lot of business away from other firms in their sectors. Of course, the poor guys only make enough money to buy cigarettes, but their employers (private companies) are able to become wealthy. Quite naturally the political circles are getting interested in this business, and more and more companies end up controlled by people close to the leading coalition party. The weirdest part was when I found out that the prisoners manufacture fake skeletons for schools and neon signs for beer and coke companies.
What is your PR pet peeve?
I think it is the top (or actually the bottom) of the whole PR industry when junior people call me up for the third time in a week and try to persuade me to go to an event that I’m not interested in attending.
Top trend in the industry you’re currently covering or are interested in.
The top trend in Hungary is that business people close to the coalition parties are putting their hands on the most lucrative sectors and businesses. The government (with its two-thirds majority) helps them by passing laws that curb competition or tilt it into their favor. The most recent example is that the right to sell cigarettes and tobacco will be tied to a license that will be issued by the government.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I started my journalism career as a pop journalist. As an undergraduate student, I wrote articles for the simple sake of earning extra cash. At that time, not many people spoke English in Hungary and I was lucky to get the pop star beat and translated many funny stories. The best part was when I had a chance to do interviews with celebrities visiting Hungary, such as Bob Geldof and Ice-T. After I got a degree in finance I transferred to the business section of the newspaper world. First, I wrote for a broadsheet daily, then for Reuters and now I’m writing for HVG, the country’s leading political and economic weekly.