It would be tempting to say as a conservative, good riddance, now that Index seems to have ceased to exist as we knew it. But I myself will not celebrate it, in fact, I am sorry about the recent commotion around the number one news site in Hungary, and I think this could all have been avoided had all the parties involved been a little more thoughtful and more willing to compromise.
I know little about the background story, certainly too little to be able to come up with a reliable explanation as to who did what and why.
At this point it's more interesting for me what Index was like, from the perspective of a young conservative woman like myself.
Index was unquestionably an institution in Hungary.
As a Hungarian media guru recently said, to emphasize with a sarsactic example of how essential Index was, that if people wanted to check whether their internet connection worked or not, they entered Index’s URL into the browser of whatever device they were using – this was true for me as well. If there is Index, there is Internet, right?
Index was also a reference point in terms of news coverage: most people, including me, would navigate to Index first whenever there was breaking news.
Still, I had a lot of issues with Index. First of all, it had an all-pervasive “cool, urban, middle-class, college educated male” outlook on things, with most of its journalist being male and its style being unmistakably characterized by the “city boys” jargon that's unique to Budapest.
I remember a family member reading me a story from Index a few years ago, where the journalist, male, of course, decided to check out for himself whether the belief, that Hungarian women were exceptionally beautiful, was indeed true.
He went on a tour in Budapest, walking through the bridges of the Danube, and took notes on women that he came across, categorizing them as “beautiful,” “quite OK” and “screwable,” or something along those lines. I'm not easily offended by misogyny, I'm not particularly the “women should rule the world” type, but even I found the tone of the article condescending and chauvinistic. That attitude has never left the editorial board over the years, it was always there, right until the end.
This story also reveals the other problem I had with index, namely the geographical scope of most Index stories: Budapest!
Let’s face it: Index was essentially a new site for Budapest.
The overwhelming majority of domestic events, issues, and controversies they covered were Budapest-focused and often Budapest-limited, with index journos hardly ever turning up at “remote” countryside events or rarely reporting from “rural areas,” unless it was a unique opportunity to bash the government or Fidesz.
And the few times they did, they seemed to be shocked by Hungarian towns and villages, by the people who lived there, how they looked, how they spoke, and usually described them with an ever-present, although subtle irony and sarcasm.
It felt to me that the tone of these reports often implied that
the natives, those hillbillies, were a freak show to be gawked at for the entertainment of the readers from the progressive capitol,
dehumanizing decent people for the target audience to feel superior.
I've been writing about Index in the past tense, as if it's gone for good: this may very well be the case, but I actually hope that what was the best in it, the reason I still read it as a conservative, will survive, that its name will live on, with talented new staff who will dare to pick up the work there, despite the public shaming on social media that their courage will be met with.