In June 2003 Pine completed a year-long committment to help reorganise Nezavisne Novine (NN) a six-day daily in Banja Luka, Republika Serbska (RS), the Serbian entity of Bosnia Herzogovina.
The project represented a new approach to media developement in the region: a long term committment by a consultant to work next to local daily journalists rather than lecturing to them in seminars for three or four days outside of the newsroom.
The NN project is part of the U.S. funded media development program in Bosnia Herzongovina focused on building democratic institutions in the country hardest hit by the Balkan War of the 1990s.
The U.S. and the European Community have poured millions in advice and equipment into the Bosnian media since the end of the war.
But most of the international programs are designed to put local media staff through seminars or training sessions concentrating on journalism skills as taught in the West. Surprizingly little attention is paid to why these methods are important to a newpaper as a business, or journalism as an institution in the area.
Most journalists find the courses pleasant but largely irrelevant to local conditions.
Pine's approach was to focus on their Bosnian readers because clearly NN and the rest of Bosnian press were not.
NN had only 8,000 circulation out of Bosnia's 3.5 million population. The largest Bosnia newspaper has an estimated circulation of only 30-60,000. In market terms, this means that there is a tremendous market of unsatisfied readers looking for a source of information instead of the political polemics offered by the Bosnian press.
To give Bosnia a truly national newspaper, Pine argued that circulation had to be increased. Increasing circulation in Bosnia could only be done by "de-politicizing" the news and making NN a "readers'" newspaper by introducing professional standards.
Pine was lucky to have the visionary support of one of the most remarkable personalities in postwar Bosnia. NN publisher Zeljko Kopanja had already established the newspaper as one of the first independent voices in the post war period when NN began just after the war to do locally unpopular stories about possible Serb war crimes.
Kopanja, who was trained as an economist but worked in BiH newspapers and television before the war, started Nezavisne Novine, or "Independent Newspaper," to bring his country together again and to expose those who had led it into war.
Because of his non-sectarian approach he became the darling of the international community and the target of entrenched Serbian nationalists. In 1999 a car bomb severed his legs. The international community reacted with strong support for Kopanja, helping him with medical care and the donation of prosthesises, and for his fledgling paper, by providing seminars and resources.
Despite the support pouring into NN, however, when Pine arrived in March 2002 Kopanja was frustrated with his paper and his journalists.
Kopanja the entrepreneur and crusading journalist was having trouble inciting those ambitions in his staff. He knew that without a motivated staff he could never reach his ultimate goal: to build NN from a RS-only paper into a national paper capable of uniting the Muslim and Croat Federation with the Serb RS.
The project put Pine in charge of shaping the total newspaper organization and called on all of his career experience from running a 60,000 circulation California weekly to building the Associated Press' research center at the wire service's headquarters in New York.
The challenge was to convince journalists, who had never had to compete for readers under communism, and who historically in Balkan culture were more interested in small numbers of "intellectual" readers, that the average reader was the building block of their business and their new democracy.
The process also had to give them self respect as journalists who were not doing just another job but being the watchdog over the other democratic institutions.
As it turned out, building that self-repect had to start with the very basics.
First, Pine had to confront staff morale problems by rennovating the newspaper office building, hiring a contractor to rip out walls and replace desks with counters to make an open newsroom. The computer network had to be redesigned and trainers brought in to teach the staff how to use email and editorial software.
NN, like most Bosnian businesses had a top down management structure that had to be replaced with clear lines of responsibility. Intiative for story ideas would come from reporters at the bottom and be sold upward to editors. Responsibility for maintaining discipline and deadlines would come down to the reporters from editor levels.
Next, new editorial standards that focused on the needs of the average reader rather than an elite of politicians or intellectuals had to be institutionalized in a series of written standards for reporting, writing and editing.
Pine then worked with groups of reporters and editors to apply the standards and to redesign the copy flow system based on deadlines and page templates.
After 15 months of work in NN's Banja Luka headquarters and with the Sarajevo bureau, readers have begun to react to the new Nezavisne Novine, referring to it as "readable," in phone calls to the paper's editors.
A recent circulation survey by IREX ProMedia found Nezavisne Novine's circulation to be among the few that are rising and focus groups showed why. Readers said that they recognized the results of a change in journalistic standards at the publications. They appreciated the attempt to give them something other than more political demagoguery.
NN Editor Dragen Jerinic said he was surprised by at least one result of the changes: when he came home one night and found his wife reading the paper for the first time.