Nana Palaitsaki- Determined To Follow An Academic Career But Fate Had Other Plans

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Nana Palaitsaki has been a journalist for more than 30 years. She started as an anchorwoman in 1990 in Greece, and she was the face of breaking news on Antenna TV, the biggest and most popular and accurate TV network in the country. Trained by CNN in all aspects of production and with the ability to cover almost anything as a reporter, Palaitsaki was the first female Greek reporter to cover the Gulf War. Shortly after Saddam Hussein's invasion in Kuwait in August, 1991 Palaitsaki found herself in Israel, carrying a camera weighing 40kg. With no team or camera operator, she did it all by herself.

Palaitsaki left Greece as one of the most popular and beloved TV hosts, yet after the end of the Gulf War, her philosophy toward life changed. Palaitsaki pursued a full-time career as a producer and she was also an executive producer for the International short film festival 48FILM Project. Greek City Times speaks to Palaitsaki in this exclusive interview.

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How and why did you choose a career in journalism?

I will try to be brief, but it is worth revealing this little story to you. Before I got into journalism, I was a professor in the Navy! I had completed my bachelor's degree in Sociology and International Relations, I already had a Master's Degree in Media and Semiology, and I was starting a Ph.D. in Admiralty Law.

I was determined to make a university career. I needed my Master's Degree in semiotics, which refers to the role of symbols and sounds because I wanted to prove the role of symbols in the armies operating in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin. I loved the law of the sea very much, especially the issues concerning the definition of the Continental Shelf borders and the sovereign rights at sea.

So, I was hired at the Navy school and trained officers, in the course of Leadership, Sociology and Maritime Law.

The provost in my Ph.D. asked for my help. He was presenting a show about the Middle East on a state radio at the time. He majored in International Relations, but unfortunately, he passed away recently. He didn't know French and I knew well, he wanted me to translate articles from Le Monde and Liberation newspapers.  Because I didn't have my own desk, I would sit at the canteen at The Hellenic Broadcast Corporation (ERT) and translate foreign newspapers. One day, a lady stood next to me who was a television producer. She knew me by my first name. She had learned about my degrees and my specialty at the University. So, she suggested I start with them on a new show, where I would conduct interviews with some intellectuals and politicians. She even told me that I would get paid 15,000 drachmas for each interview. Considering the fact that I was getting 48,000 drachmas from the Navy a month, the money seemed good to me. I asked her what I should do and she replied that I would have to do an audition so that they could see how I would talk in front of the camera.

Two days later, I went to the studio and they gave me to read a newscast. Two minutes later, a gentleman opened the door in the studio and told me that he considered me a "revelation" for the newscast. He was introduced to me and I was in shock because he was a famous director. He was Tasos Birsim, the personal director of Andreas Papandreou, who was then the leader of PASOK. I thanked Tasos Birsim and told him that I was not at all interested in presenting the news, as I was having a university career.

Fate played a very unexpected game. In 1989, Minos Kyriacou, the founder and owner of Antenna TV, one of the largest television networks in Greece, had invited Tasos Birsim to help set up the channel that Kyriacou would create and name Antenna TV.  So, they were looking for new faces who would train them to respond to the private television mentality that was then beginning. So, Birsim took the tape with my test to Minos Kyriacou. They saw me, along with a group of Americans from CNN whom the owner of the new channel had invited to organise the channel. I learned later that I liked them very much, as I had a very unconventional for the time image. I had blonde very short hair, I was very young and rock style.

They invited me to Mr. Kyriacou's office and made me an excellent proposal concerning the presentation of the news bulletin and a five-year contract with three times more money than I was getting at the university.

I defied the standards, as I already had a child and said goodbye to the university in order to follow the stormy space of the media.

 

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Did you prefer investigative or political journalism?

I loved free reportage. I loved to be on the street and investigate all social matters. Do you know why? I always believed that people and the way they managed everyday life it mattered more to me. Political reportage did not fascinate me. I remind you that a few months after my appearance on the primetime news, I was constantly continuing training in reportage, presentation, editing and post-production, I covered the Gulf War as a reporter. Three days after Saddam invaded Kuwait, I got a camera and went to Israel. Another huge experience for a journalist.

What is the plot and development of your fifth book titled “You are a woman, you deserve it'?

I have written 10 different stories of women aged 18 to 60. They are true stories. All these women are trapped in their "demons". How unfair that it is! How much more beautiful their lives would be if they knew the "tools" to free themselves from the "cutter" that does not let them enjoy the moments of life!

At the end of each story, the philosophy professor and psychologist Dimitris Tsouknidis intervenes and gives these 5 tools that if every woman knew before, she would have used to be redeemed.

The purpose of the book was and is, for those women or people who do not have the opportunity to visit a mental health counsellor, to find a "survival guidebook" to manage the issues they face in everyday life. The publishing house, which is ARMOS, is considered emblematic for the thematic books on self-knowledge it publishes.

Were there any difficulties during your career path?

There is no work without hard work. Journalism and especially television with its demanding conditions like reporting, continuous shifts, wars, unexpected events, and breaking news change everything in a mother’s life by giving her a greater degree of difficulty. I think that every woman, whether she works in the pharmaceutical industry or in a large multinational company when she is a mother, has to turn into pieces to cope with all the roles.

The most difficult thing was dealing with my psychology, the time I spent away from my child when my son needed me and I wasn’t there for him.

What was the most difficult journalistic mission you were assigned and remember the most?

The Gulf War.

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How direct Nana can be in her articles or even comments!

Look, I always asked my interviewees what the average audience would like to know. I did not do a hallow portrayal of the guest in the interviews. If I did, the result would be indifferent. I asked directly though. I'll give you an example. Once I hosted a famous publisher. There were rumours that he worked for the Secret Service. People believed it. I asked him directly. "Did you cooperate with the secret services?" I just asked and he replied.

I was never offensive or ironic though.

There were some years of absence from Greece when you were in the States. Would I say it was a new beginning or a continuation of your professional career?

I went to Los Angeles and I worked for a company. The company was creating documentaries on distinguished Greeks in major scientific institutions in America.

It was a great experience. During the crisis and the memoranda, the Greeks felt discredited and over-indebted. I wanted - we wanted as a team - to show to the world all those Greeks who have excelled professionally in the world. That's why the documentary was titled “Respect Greece”.

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You are  busy woman, working many hours a week. Is there time for you at all? Do you indulge yourself in other needs?

What has pleased me for many years and continues to please me a lot since this day, is taking my dog with me jogging on the mountain. Thank goodness, I'm continuing it. It is my detoxification and my great joy.

Have you regretted for some of your collaborations?

Of course. In my 33-year professional career, I have made mistakes and wrong choices. I paid the price and continued.

You are the communications spokesperson of two big companies. How did you choose these two companies? And what services do they offer?

In the case of CORONIS Research Company, I was called by the president and CEO of the company. My studies in message analysis, made me in the 2000s, to work for Leo Burnet, a large multinational company, in the strategic communication planning department for its multinational clients. Communication, crisis management, and digital marketing fascinate me.

Coronis is therefore one of the most important awarding research organizations in Greece with its main activity being the provision of clinical research services.

The other company is DNA SEQUENCE a start-up, awarded by the international journal life science review, as the company of the year in Europe and the UK for Biosafety and Biomonitoring.

And in this company, the CEO called me to take in charge of the Communication Department since last May.

Are you a doting mother? How would you describe your relationship with your son?

You know this answer should be given by my son. All I know is that I adore Alexis and admire him for everything he has accomplished in his life. He studied and worked abroad specifically in Germany; he worked in Germany for 15 years, and now he has been transferred to England in the last year.

What is your point of view on the political-economic situation in Greece and whether your fellow journalists handle the news objectively?

In Greece, as citizens, we manage to survive a more than ten-year crisis, we passed memoranda, we welcomed the pandemic and recently the energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine. The fact that we are still on our feet, those of us who strive hard to succeed it, it’s almost a miracle. We experienced the Armageddon of the destruction of large media outlets, advertising companies, countless businesses...We experienced discredit while one corruption scandal succeeded the other. Whether journalists handle the news objectively or not I would say it is not easy. In recent years, raw content doesn’t exist and public relations prevail. There is an exemption to the rule; few, very few journalists work based on work ethics and objectivity as long as they would endure. 

What would you wish for and like to accomplish in the future?

To be healthy and to find time to spend quiet moments with my son.

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