The journalist who opened up new avenues for television news, looks back on her career from the first front page, the first newscast and the first rupture that led to her dismissal. She talks about the TV traps and the internal resistances required by daily exposure to the screen, so as not to become addicted. She explains why ruptures are inevitable in the evolution of a journalistic life and clarifies that if you rest assured in your pretty face, you’re not going to make it in the long run.
Elli Stai : Born Journalist and Anchorwoman
By Xistina Katsantoni
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
As a child, she yearned for intensity and ardour. She wanted to conquer the world, meet new people, go after challenges and live intensely. Following the advice of a family friend, she decided to try her luck in journalism and that’s when she discovered what she had always been looking for without being able to determine it. Even though her personality doesn’t fit into clichés and stereotypes, the fact remains that Elli Stai was born to become a journalist and an anchorwoman. Even before she realised that, the universe had already conspired in her favor.
The early loss and the political environment
Her childhood was neither carefree nor casual. At the age of seven, she experienced the loss of her father who was an MP, something that affected her outlook on life and created a childish skepticism. Due to her family background and the Greek junta Elli Stai grew up amongst personalities such as Alexandros Panagoulis. With her reluctance to comply with instructions, she demonstrated her revolutionary nature during her school years at Arsakeio.
As a student at Law School she joined the student uprising, where she felt at ease but when she took her first job as a lawyer, she couldn’t tolerate being told what to do. The man who pointed the way to journalism was Anastasios Peponis. Elli Stai got a job at "Avgi", followed by newspapers such as "Acropolis" and "Mesimvrini". She had just met her destiny.
From state TV to the first TV split screen
Elli Stai joined the stateTV channel (ERT) in 1982, after entering a competition that was meant to change her life. At first, she was just presenting the news bulletin, but this wasn’t enough for her. She did not wish to be just a pretty face on screen. Elli Stai was adamant about creating her own journalistic imprint. She demanded more, and this caused her first lay off from ERT. Fortunately enough, that didn’t discourage her. On the contrary it deeply mobilised her.
She decided to leave Greece temporarily and moved to Brussels, where she worked at the European Parliament and as a correspondent for Flash radio station. The opportunity to dive deep into European culture fascinated Elli Stai, but life abroad seemed much more boring than life in Greece. It lacked passion and the intensity she was always looking for. Elli Stai returned to Greece at a time when private TV stations had just been established. The timing was suitable for someone looking for an adrenaline rush.
Her encounter with Stamatis Malelis at the newly formed Skai TV, in the early 1990s, changed television coverage forever. The first TV news split screens were launched, which had an immediate impact and have since been implemented by all channels.
The Iron Lady of the news
Following her career in journalism and television, Elli Stai collaborated with all major private channels, as well as state television. She withstood conditions of fierce or even extreme competition, achieved very high ratings and presented numerous shows in which leading personalities of politics and arts were invited as guests.
With her personality and rooted journalistic curiosity, Elli Stai left her mark on the evolution of tv news in Greece. She never hesitated to express an opinion, even at times when she knew that targeting would be inevitable. No matter how fiercely she was attacked, not only for her professional but also for her personal choices, she always remained open to the challenge of reinventing herself.
Exposure calls for resistance
For Elli Stai journalism requires character, a firm posture, resiliance and painful choices. She believes that there is no journalist with a painless professional life, and she still has the same "childish habit" of not complying with the rules.
Currently she doesn’t miss presenting on TV, but she doesn’t rule out the possibility of returning to TV news in the future. She is happy and calm with her personal and professional life, but admits that what has always motivated her is ardour. A proof that Elli Stai was born to be a journalist and an anchorwoman.