"Moscow is next—and I've no intentions of stopping there!" says Scott Alexander, as he sets his glass of Velke popovicke, a favorite local brew, on the table of the well-known Prague pub.
Alexander moved to the Czech Republic from Washington, D.C., two years ago to found the European Journalism Network to help university students in formerly communist countries establish free-market-oriented newspapers. EJN-sponsored papers are now published in Budapest, Szombathely (Hungary), Kiev, Warsaw, Bratislava, and Prague. Alexander is laying the groundwork for papers in Moscow and Zagreb.
"We hope to give students a voice in the educational and political reform in Eastern Europe," he explains. Since he runs the network "as an entrepreneurial venture, ensuring that each publication operates as a successful business," the students are also learning valuable business skills.
EJN papers have already made waves. Kilátó, published at Hungary's Dániel Bercsenyi University, ran an article in March parodying Istvan Csurka, at the time a member of parliament known for his anti-Semitism, irredentism, and xenophobia. (See "Loose Cannon," Dec. 1992.) Csurka was so incensed after reading the article (all political leaders receive copies of the local EJN papers) he complained to the minister of education. To appease Csurka, the minister called the university president to Budapest.
Upon his return, the president summoned Kilátó's editorial staff to his office. "They were terrified," recalls Alexander. To their immense relief, the president greeted them with, "You're doing a great job!"
EJN has attracted notice in the United States, too. U.S. News & World Report dubbed the papers "laboratories of capitalism" for their success teaching students to participate in the free market as well as to write about it.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "The East Is Read".