Former President Havel to guest-edit Czech newspaper

Vaclav Havel

On Thursday, readers of the leading financial daily Hospodarske noviny are in for something of a surprise. For one day only, former Czech president, Vaclav Havel, will be taking over as the paper's editor. In anticipation of Mr. Havel's editorial debut, Rosie Johnston spoke editor-in-chief of Hospodarske noviny, Petr Simunek. She asked him where the idea had come from:

"To be completely honest with you, it was not originally our idea. I just knew that the Independent in Great Britain did something similar with Bono, and I though that it was a very good idea to have a guest-editor. So we had a choice of who to ask, and so we decided to ask Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus, because I think those two are the most important personalities in recent Czech history."

So what can we expect this coming Thursday? What sort of stories do you think Mr. Havel will give preference to?

"To be honest, I'm not sure. But I think that the main topics might be Russia, Burma, and the American radar on Czech soil."

Will it be a hard job for Mr. Havel to do? What will his job entail?

"I will help him with all the technical questions. Mainly, he will have to set all the priorities for the newspaper. He has already chosen some new authors for our newspaper, who are already writing the stories, especially for this edition. He will set the priorities and then he will have to approve every page - say that it is okay, and that he agrees with the page and how it looks. Then it can be sent to the printers."

I was wondering if you thought that this was actually becoming a bit of a trend amongst Czech newspapers, because the [free daily] 24 hodin is doing this as well? Why do you think people like having guest editors editing their papers?

"I don't think it is a trend, and I would like to distinguish between what we are doing with our newspaper and what 24 hodin is doing. That is just a marketing tool for them, I would guess. And I think that their guest editors are exercising absolutely no influence over that issue of 24 hodin. That's completely different from what we are doing now with Vaclav Havel, because he is really choosing authors, he is really choosing priorities for the newspaper, he is even choosing photographs and graphics for the newspaper."

"But back to your question, I don't think it is a trend. It's an experimental idea for the newspaper, it's a surprise for the readers, but it's not a trend."

You said there that 24 hodin are doing this as a marketing tool, but what are Hospodarske noviny doing this for, if not a marketing tool?

"It's not only a marketing tool for us, as I said, we asked Vaclav Havel and Vaclav Klaus to do this for us. And the reason is because these two personalities are very important when it comes to influencing the Czech society's opinion. We wanted to present them in a new role, as newspaper editors. Vaclav Havel's newspaper will be pretty surprising - you'll see. It's not just a marketing tool for Hospodarske noviny, but it is also a vehicle for Vaclav Havel to present his ideas."