Time for the next installment of Greek-American in Greece! This time, meet Mihalis Nevradakis, founder of Dialogos Media.
Q&A with Greek-American in Greece Mihalis Nevradakis
We’re back with another Greek-American in Greece! This time, we caught up with New York native Mihalis Nevradakis, founder of Dialogos Media. Meet him!
Maria A. Karamitsos: Where were you born and raised? Tell us about your time there.
Mihalis Nevradakis: I was born in New York City, and moved to Astoria during my formative years. Growing up in NY, I was surrounded by Greek people in day-to-day life. I went to Greek school in Queens for two years, but continued speaking and communicating in Greek on my own after that.
MAK: Where is your family from in Greece?
MN: Karpathos and Crete.
MAK: Do you still have family in the U.S.? Do you visit often?
MN: My family is still in New York. I’ve visited a few times during my stay in Greece, and they come to Greece, too.
MAK: Did you attend university in the U.S.? Tell us about you and your studies.
NM: I graduated from Stony Brook University in 2005 with a Bachelor’s in Political Science. I earned my Masters in Public Policy in 2007 from the same university. In 2009, I moved to Austin, TX to begin work on a PhD in Media Studies.
MAK: Why did you move to Greece?
NM: In 2012, I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship, and moved to Greece to begin my dissertation research. Currently, I’m participating in the Onassis Foundation scholarship program, and hope to finish my dissertation by end of the year.
MAK: Tell us about your dissertation.
MN: It’s about Greece, and specifically, about social and new media and their impact on the Greek public sphere and Greek civil society during the economic crisis. I’m looking at an evolutionary process about how public discourse in Greece has changed or has been altered during years of the crisis. I’ve conducted more than 100 interviews to date, including some high profile people — politicians of different parties, journalists, bloggers, activists, academics, representatives of various civil society groups, and not-for-profits. It’s an amazing experience to have the opportunity to speak to people who have been in the news, and during this difficult but also historic period.
MAK: What impact do you see?
MN: Social media has played a major role in today’s Greece. For example, the political party Independent Greeks became known in the part because they launched on Facebook (in 2012). Essentially, they asked the public to draft their platform and policies. They made a concerted effort to use Facebook, in particular, to reach out to the public and built their electoral profile. In the next election, they won a large enough percentage to enter Parliament. They’re now participating in the coalition and ironically, are not active on Facebook in this manner anymore.
I see the biggest impact on civil society. A lot of groups were founded in midst of the financial crisis and these groups range from official registered NGOs to unofficial groups like neighborhood assemblies. The latter, in particular, are groups that essentially have set up alternative currencies and barter economies, trading services and goods. Such smaller groups have used social media primarily to reach the public, since they are shut out from the mass media. They use Facebook and blogs for outreach. Community medical clinics with volunteer doctors that treat people with no money and no insurance make their services known through social media. There’s a burgeoning activity in this sort of citizen-level organizing in Greece. Social media plays a key role.
Twitter plays a significant role in eyewitness and on-the-ground news reporting. There are many examples, such as when the widespread protest movements sprang up. The media reported events one way, but what was reported by people on the ground tweeting it was entirely different. They contradicted the official narrative of what was happening.
MAK: Did you start Dialogos Media in the U.S. or in Greece?
MN: I started Dialogos Media in Texas in 2010. Originally called Austin Hellenic Radio, it aired locally on the college radio station, KVRX. I did radio at Stony Brook, and it’s always been my favorite medium. After I completed the 1st year of my PhD studies, I needed diversion from the often intense and tedious academic work. Joining the student radio station seemed like a natural choice. I decided to do Greek radio because it was around the time the economic crisis began in earnest. Greece was in the news. Both Greece and Greek people were cast in a negative way by much of the media. I wanted to start a program that would feature more positive aspects of Greece and Greek culture. I had no idea it would grow to be as big as it is today. Dialogos airs on 20+ radio stations around the world, and it’s produced in Greek and English.
MAK: So it started as a hobby and now it’s a business?
MN: Yes. As the crisis deepened and Greece remained in news cycle, the show got attention and attained some relatively high profile interviews with both Greeks and non-Greeks, helping the program take off. When I came to Greece, by chance I had the opportunity to get to know people who helped expand it here, and we started Greek language programming. I saw interest from other stations, and reached out to Greek communities around the world, as well as online stations. We then developed a web presence for show. Our podcast is popular on iTunes and Tune-in Radio. All the shows are archived online. I got some attention from other media outlets, who contracted me to write the interviews, which they printed. So I’ve worked with various outlets in the U.S. and Greece. I’m published twice a month by Mint Press News. Among other things, I analyze current events and the situation in Greece, and publicize interviews on relevant economic and political topics.
MAK: What can we find on Dialogos Media?
MN: The website is www.dialogosmedia.org, and there you can find podcasts, interviews and commentaries, published articles, and more. You can listen on demand to any Dialogos episodes from the past 4-5 years. In addition, you can listen to the web radio station Dialogos Radio 24/7. Our podcast is the most popular, and averages several thousand downloads a month.
MAK: What’s next for you and Dialogos Media?
MN: I’d love to continue the program and expand its coverage to more stations. Since I’m trying to complete my dissertation, I have less time to dedicate to Dialogos, but it will continue a little bit scaled down. There will still be frequent interviews, but weekly commentaries and analyses will be broadcast less frequently. I do intend to return to regular schedule when I complete my dissertation.
MAK: How do you like living in Greece? Was it easy to adjust?
MN: My experience has been very positive. It’s important to remember that every country has its upsides and downsides. There are things here that to someone not from here might seem unusual. The same things can be said for someone visiting the U.S. for the first time. Greece is going through a difficult time and it’s evident. If you look beyond the people going about daily life and hanging out in cafes or at the beach, there’s a lot of difficulty. It does weigh on you sometimes. But, on a personal level it hasn’t taken away from my experience. One can have an enjoyable and fulfilling life in Greece, and I feel privileged to be here during such a historic period. Greece has potential for great things. It’s unfortunate that with the policies implemented over the past few years — I don’t believe it’s the right direction for country politically and economically — but nonetheless it’s still a place with an excellent way of life. One factor that’s kept the country together is strong family ties. It’s the strongest aspect of Greek culture and society. I like to believe the country will weather the storm, one way or another.
My biggest difficulty adjusting is the fact that I’m a 3rd culture child. This means that growing up American and Greek, you have one foot in both cultures, but don’t have both feet firmly planted in either. This has some advantages — I can see things with different perspectives, both in the U.S. and Greece. I found this has helped me better communicate with individuals from other countries. I have a more global understanding of cultural difference. When you’re not firmly established in either country there are moments when you feel like a relative outsider. Sometimes it makes it hard to fully adjust to certain aspects of life in either country or fully adjust to certain aspects of each respective culture. Sure, there are disadvantages, but the advantages outweigh them. I’m so grateful for this opportunity, for the ability to be able to communicate across cultures.
MAK: What should people outside of Greece know?
MN: 1) Stereotypes often heard about Greek people aren’t true. With every stereotype in general there’s sometimes a grain of truth. In many cases, the way the media has covered what’s happening in Greece has shed collective blame on the people for cheating on taxes, not working hard enough, living beyond means, etc. All are absolutely not true. It’s just that that narrative sells, and has been sold over the years. Even before the Olympics, there was such negativity about Greece’s ability to host the Games and be ready. The Games went very well. The aftermath has raised a lot of questions about finances and post-Olympics planning, but even there, there’s lots of media exaggeration — not all Olympic facilities are abandoned. Most are in use in some way. Greece is going through an economic crisis. There are greater priorities than keeping fountains on in Olympic Stadium. It’s absurd. Greece is a beautiful country. The perception is that there is turmoil, rioting, constant strikes — it’s absolutely not true. In fact, I can’t remember the last time there was a truly large scale protest. Maybe 2015? Despite what you hear, strikes don’t happen that often. Actually, German airline personnel have been on strike more often! Visitors and tourists will see nothing out of the ordinary. They’ll see the beauty, historic sites, a culture welcoming to visitors, and they won’t regret it.
A friend from Puerto Rico visited Greece for the first time in 2015. She loved it so much she’s already returned twice. It’s a country that any newcomer will fall in love with.
2) Don’t be scared off by the refugee crisis. Visitors and tourists won’t see or experience it. I’ve been to islands in the past 3-4 years during the refugee and migrant crisis at its worst — to Rhodes, Simi, Kos, Kalymnos. Honestly, you’ll see some refugees and migrants outside the coast guard office or other specific locations. They’re just there. You won’t see them washing up on the beach. Even in Athens you really don’t notice anything. They’ve either left Greece or been taken to other locations for temporary housing. At those locations there has been some turbulence between refugees/migrants and authorities but it’s largely isolated to those locations. It’s important to note that Greece, due to geography and due to EU rules, is at front lines of this crisis. It’s caused a major strain on the country, especially right now. Also. Greece is not the only country that’s experiencing a crisis — economic or political.
MAK: Do you see positive change?
MN: I see, for instance, many young Greeks innovating out of the crisis. There’s much innovation and creativity here right now. Greeks always had this quality in them, but the way the economic system operated (and still does in many ways) made it difficult to flex creative muscle or start businesses. There are a lot of start-ups and new entrepreneurial initiatives. Some have gotten the attention of foreign investors, like Samsung who bought out a Greek start-up. Some expanded out of Greece. Greeks are showing the great creativity and the resilience they’ve always had, but updated for the 21st century and digital era. I would, however, like to see much more done to allow Greek youth and Greek businesses and creative talent to remain in Greece and contribute to the future growth and prosperity of the country.
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