Information hormones: How adrenaline took precedence over serotonin in news from the north

Ilustracija: KoSSev/Ai

How did we get to the point that a happy story is not news? How did we get to the point that the reader would rather read news about violence and the daily addresses of politicians, instead of stories about creators, achievers, artists, in a word – encouraging people? What hormone has a bigger impact on us – serotonin or adrenaline?

The north of Kosovo is an area in crisis. Three years ago, it once again came into the focus of the regional and international public, primarily as a new, renewed source of political and security instability.

Its residents often describe their situation as life in a constant state of emergency. Nevertheless, occasional heartwarming stories about good fortune, successes, news about sports, art and culture, news pieces about picturesque sceneries, are a breath of fresh air for the contaminated media agenda. They have an inspiring and relaxing effect on the public as well as on the journalists themselves.

However, small newsrooms, due to their limited capacities, are not able to dictate the media agenda by themselves, instead, they often report reactively, following high-level political events. In the face of this urgency, the story about the good things is often nowhere to be found.

State of emergency

The year 2023 in the north could be summed up in one word – crisis. There is a long list of events and processes of the state of emergency in which the majority Serbian community in the north found itself.

Adoption of the European plan, several incidents, such as the wounding of two Serbian boys by members of the KSF on Christmas Day in Strpce, to the murder of an Albanian police officer in an ambush in Banjska, and the conflict of the Kosovo police with a group of armed and uniformed Serbs and the killing of three alleged suspected attackers; boycott of elections in the north and the continued boycott of Kosovo institutions, a repeated rejection of the practice of collecting votes for Serbian elections in the north, installing Albanian mayors and occupying municipal buildings with the help of special police; the conflict between the Serbs and KFOR, the additional deployment of special forces in the north, the expropriation of private land against the will of its owners… these are only some of a long list of events that led the residents of the north into a year of great crisis.

The international mediators themselves have repeatedly emphasized: We would like to deal more with dialogue, and less with crisis management.

Journalists also worked overtime.

Unwanted crises

At the end of the year, new crises once again increased readers’ trust in our site, as shown by our readership figures.

We are set to end the year with almost three million individual users, almost 15 million sessions, and over 26 million page views.

Of the 12 most read news pieces of the year, by each month, none of them are happy news. Each of these news items concerned either Banjska, seizure of goods, the European proposal, that is, the agreement and an unexpected diplomatic blunder – the relocation of the monument to the fallen WWI Serbian soldiers at the Orthodox cemetery in Pristina by the French embassy.

KP seizes beer, Coca-Cola, brandy, vodka, peas, toilet paper… 67.723
Scholz, Macron and Meloni: Kosovo to initiate the procedure for the establishment of the ASM, Serbia to deliver de facto recognition 61.664
Drug laboratories in the north – from millions of profits to abandoned buildings 54,353 54.353
Public letter to the French ambassador 53.987
Kosovo Government: The Serbian Army headed toward Kosovo from three directions; Vučić for FT: Pure lie 49.729
Rama after the announcement of EU measures: KP guards empty buildings, soldiers „sing at the border“ – this is not European behavior 46.975
Military analyst: The „armored“ vehicle in Banjska acts as a modification of the SUV, not a vehicle of the MIA and the Serbian Army 46.974
The French and German embassies confirmed that they moved the monument to WWI Serbian soldiers, disappointed over the ‘misinterpretation’ of their ‘gesture’  46.006
Šarović on Banjska: The person who armed the Serbs convinced them that things would turn out differently 45.082
Svecla and Hoxha played footage from a confiscated drone: The group trained on Kopaonik and Pasuljanske Livade 42.694
Kurti confirmed that the Five offered a new plan, he urged for a new approach 42.244
Svecla: While Vučić talks about arming Serbia, ammunition was seized in the north today 40.435
Sovrlić on Banjska: Someone apparently convinced them that they were really returning home 38.153
Beauty, art, and creativity on the back burner

It’s not like there was not a single happy news. On the contrary! North Mitrovica is a town filled with countless creative, hardworking, talented people who seek their escape from the crisis in their creativity. No matter how relentless the statistics, below we list only some of them.

If the morning shows the day…


The news about the students from Gračanica offering their hand-made creations at the stands in their New Year’s sales exhibition of greeting cards and other handicrafts at the very beginning of this year, was not popular amongr our readers, compared to the fact that about 70 kilometers up north, at the checkpoint of special police forces, the Kosovo Minister of Internal Affairs and the Minister of Infrastructure welcomed the New Year.


On January 1, only 200 readers read about the nice gesture of the students, and in the whole year, only 249 read this article in total. On the other hand, the piece on New Year’s celebration by Xhelal Svecla and Luburn Aliu in the north of Kosovo was read 4,395 times. The most read news item was the one about the New Year’s greetings of officials from Belgrade and Pristina – 5,997, even though it was published a day earlier.

It was a sign that this year will also be dominated by high politics and news about the crisis.

Mitrovica YouTube duo Džemil Zaim and Stefan Kuč – popular Džestef share stories, told through the point of view of the youth, about their town and the heavy political burden that denies them the right to a normal, urban life.

Although published during the holiday season, this story was read by only 2,140 readers at the beginning of January, and 2,460 during the year.

That was twice as low number of reads compared to the news on the reaction of the Kosovo Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the news that a bus from Kosovo was attacked in Serbia on its way to Germany. It was read by 6,741 readers that day.

We also wrote about the young Tiktoker from Mitrovica – Danilo Virijević. We shared a story about how a how-to-cheat-on-test tutorial, made as a joke and out of boredom during the pandemic, made him one of the most popular Tiktoker in the region, whose videos contain no violence, profanity, but humor and love for his family.

Even this piece did not reach the same umbers of news recorded by news articles from the sphere of politics. Professor of international law Enver Hasani said that what is considered a de facto recognition of the European plan for the Kosovo-Serbia dialogue is a „colossal Serbian success“. A total of 5,030 readers read our translation of the professor’s interview with Koha, compared to 4,022 reads of the news about Danilo, that is, 4,676 during the whole year.

In the spring, after 19 years, we met with a returnee brother and sister in the Metohija village of Brestovik. The now 25-year-old Branko Dašić and his 23-year-old sister Marta were the stars of a television story in 2004, after March 17, when they returned with their family to a completely burned and destroyed village. Although the vivid and wonderfully beautiful tale from the village at the foot of Prokletije was met with a warm response, it was not as well-read as the news on the efforts to implement the European plan for Kosovo.

The advisors of the French president, the German chancellor and the Italian prime minister published their op-ed for the Serbian Blic newspaper and the Kosovo-based Koha with the message: Serbia should come to terms with the fact that Kosovo is a neighboring country, Kosovo should protect the Serbs.

The story about Branko and Marta was read by 1,232 readers on the day it was published, and a total of 3,073 during the year. The letter of the diplomatic threesome published by our portal was read 6,166 times in a day.

For our newsroom, one of the most beautiful discoveries in April was a young woman from Prijepolje, Jovana Pelević, who came to North Mitrovica to study, and remained here after marrying a local. In preparation for the birth of her first child, dissatisfied with the monotonous designs for baby clothes, she designed and sewed everything her baby needed, and later launched a whole business out of it. This unemployed young psychologist turned her love for painting and sewing into a job. However, only 299 readers read the story about her Snohvatice, 354 in total for the whole year.

The audience was more interested, by more than 23 times, in what the (now former) adviser to the Kosovo president had to say again on Twitter, given that he had been announcing himself for days, that is, for months, accusing Belgrade and Serbian structures in the north of crime. Many car arsons were recorded in the north, whose owners re-registered to RKS license plates, and he was the first to inform the public about it. On April 1, the day before our story about the hard-working and creative Jovana was shared, we published Vela’s announcement on Twitter that the first suspected culprit for setting fire to a vehicle was arrested, so that news piece remained the most read one on that next day. A total of 7,027 readers read this news piece on the second day of its publication.

In April, we also discovered Branko Pavlović, who, after fleeing his hometown after the war, began to heal his homesickness in Mitrovica by building miniature churches and monasteries that irresistibly resemble real places of worship.

„Someone dies and doesn’t know what he lived for. Some people are talented with violin, some people with welding, but some don’t know what they are gifted at, because they have never tried anything,“ he told us at the time.

Four times as many readers read other news items published that day. Kosovo Minister of Economy, Artane Rizvanolli, is another Kosovo official who also informed the public via social networks that 174 crypto-currency mining devices were seized in the operation of the Kosovo Police in the municipality of Zubin Potok. The number of those who read this information (4,986) is four times greater than the number of readers who looked at Branko’s mini-masterpieces (921 on that day, 1,170 in total during the year).

Not even the story about the oldest, but still one the most active skiers at Kopaonik, Milivoje Simić, better known to everyone as Professor Beli, who has been skiing on this mountain for 73 years, did not manage to catch the attention of the audience, as it was read only 714 times on Youth Day on May 25, and a total of 1030 times during the whole year. The fact that just one day before the SNS counter-rally in Belgrade, one of the main bus carriers canceled two regular lines to Belgrade, proved to be more interesting for our readers, 3742 of whom read the news.

There are days when happy news wins. What did the citizens of Gracanica have to say after the confirmation from Brussels that the visa regime for passports from Kosovo has been abolished (2037 reads), and the story about the academic painter Dejan Perić and the artist of peace (899, total 2,544 reads) were the most read news on a peaceful April day. Such situations proved to be an exception.

The multimedia and artistic Dobrić family is also one of the bright spots of the town on the Ibar. While Milica is a jazz singer on the rise in Belgrade, her mother Biljana, an English teacher, and her son Milan Dobrić, are photographers. Scenes from the streets of Mitrovica, immortalized over the years, chronicle the difficult history of the town and its inhabitants. In the middle of May, their photographs, together with the ones taken by another photographer from Leposavic, were included in the exhibition at the famous Belgrade gallery „Atget“.

The conversation with Dobri, as Mitrovica residents affectionately call him, could not compete with the political news. Regardless of the decent readership (on the day of publication: 3,501, total: 4,611), happy news articles about hardworking and creative people were once again swallowed by high politics.

The new Albanian mayors, with the help of the special police, occupied the municipal buildings in the north on May 26. In the whole chaos of heavy accusations exchanged between Belgrade and Pristina, no one dealt with the issue of seized documents at that time. When we wondered: What about the documents of the Republic of Serbia located in occupied municipal buildings? – the news on this issue was read by 10,345 readers on the day it was published, May 28.

In the severe crisis of bad news that the inhabitants of the north were bombarded with throughout the summer, those individuals who painted the world with happy colors and beautiful tones did not waver.

A summer school of calligraphy was organized in the monastery in Banjska, where students of all ages learned about the basics of this ancient art form from China and socialized for a few days. While filming these talented and hard-working artists, we would never have believed that just a month later this very place would be the scene of a serious conflict between the Kosovo Police and a uniformed armed group of Serbs, while the latter would break into the monastery complex itself.

The beautiful story about calligraphy in the monastery was read by only 718 readers, or 774 in total. The news published the day before, which further deepened the crisis, that the municipal inspectors had given Serbian institutions three days to prepare documentation on the use of institutions or to vacate the facilities, was still the most read piece – 4825 in the second day of its publication.

Then, a month later, Banjska was brought to the fore, and almost no happy news was shared in the following months. If any of them even caught our eye, our editorial office unanimously felt that publishing it would be almost tasteless in the ocean of grim headlines.

A journalist is the eye and ear of the community in which he lives and works. The year was coming to an end, the fatigue, hopelessness and disorientation of the community sent us a message about the need for a voice of reason and a good example.

When an internal medicine doctor and cardiologist at the North Mitrovica Hospital Center, Nebojša Srbljak, told us in mid-November that he had a vision for his institution, which over the years has been the scene of tough politics, to become a brand through knowledge and skill, almost 6,000 people read that interview. And it was the most read and viewed news piece of that day (2,301 reads).

Tensions, depression, anxiety, violence – this is what marked the life in the north of Kosovo in the last 30 years. The perfect recipe for heart disease. The doctor who heals our hearts found his recipe for health in taking walks and growing fruit on his grandfather’s farm in the heart of Metohija. Internal medicine doctor and cardiologist at the North Mitrovica Hospital Center, Nebojša Srbljak, is a renowned expert in the medical community. He is the son of one of the three founders of the coronary department in the hospital in Mitrovica. To this day, despite all our adversities and divisions, he has remained a reliable physician, whose patients from both sides of the river come to for help.

After a long time, on social networks, citizens of all ethnicities left pleasant comments on the story about this doctor.

We gave too much space to bad examples

Psychologist and psychotherapist prof. Dr. Jelena Minić, says that talent is a potential that is very important to recognize and encourage despite crises.

In an interview for KoSSev, she notes that perhaps as a society we have not yet accepted and understood the fact that talent is a potential, not only of the individual and his family, but the potential of the local community and society as a whole, which can significantly improve the quality of life if it is recognized and realized.

„Unfortunately, it seems that we highlighted bad examples and gave them too much space (media, social, personal…), without taking into account how much we lose in the short term, but also in the long term. Of course, there are still individuals who do their job conscientiously and cultivate the right value systems, but we tend to use only one criterion of normality, which is – what the majority does is what’s normal. We often forget that it is a very debatable criterion of normality, which very easily leads us into making errors and opens up space to call unacceptable behaviors and activities normal,“ says the professor.

Jelena Minić psiholog

Each crisis is characterized by an imbalance, but also the effort of the individual affected by the crisis to re-establish the disturbed balance, in order to avoid a collapse, to start the process of recovery and re-establishing the balance, Minić points out.

„As an integral part of life, crisis signifies a disharmony and imbalance between the pressure that arises due to internal and external demands and the ability to adequately respond to the pressure,“ she explains.

„If we add bad news to the existing imbalance, then the pressures that the individual faces are even stronger, and the outcome of the crisis is more uncertain. Constantly hearing bad news has a negative effect on the individual, among other things it brings unrest and fear, makes the individual passive. Good news, on the other hand, awakens hope and restores faith in people, encourages activity and change.“

The public needs a happy story, and journalists need more colleagues and time to write them

The fact that „bad“ news, in other words, those news pieces that share information about crises, disasters, violence and the like, are the most read ones on portals, is nothing new, says the director of Radio Mitrovica Sever, Maja Fićović. All official analyses of portal readership support the fact that tabloid portals are the most read, while those who cultivate professional journalism are not part of that group, Fićović points out.

Fićović is also a PhD student in „Media and Communication“ at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade. She has been researching the crisis in the north through media coverage for months. She shared a slightly different experience from her radio for our portal, disclosing that the observations are based on measuring the popularity of their texts through social networks.

Maja Fićović

„The media are adapting to their target group and for the purposes of content monetization, they highlight such news and texts. However, the experiences of local media, especially in Kosovo, are slightly different. As far as the Radio Mitrovica Sever portal is concerned, in 2023, which was marked by a series of crises, protests, incidents and conflicts, the dominance of such news is expected and natural, because we followed and reported on a daily basis about all the events and these news items were the most-read. But the texts in which we reported in a positive context, about people, not events, were even more read than news about crises,“ she says, adding:

„Such stories are the most read here, they are shared in large numbers on social networks. First people, then events. Our readers mostly read stories about people, less about events, which, despite everything, still took place this year.“

Indeed, when it comes to the visibility of „good“ news on social networks, especially on Facebook and Instagram, and especially when these are stories about people, one can get the impression that they have positive feedback in the community and the public.
For example, the interview with Dr. Srbljak, despite the crisis surrounding Banjska, had 25,000 views on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram on our pages alone, not including the initial sharing of news and stories about him, and the sharing of other users. On Facebook alone, the text reach, excluding video, was almost 28,000, with almost 600 reactions.

Or, the story about the artistic family Dobrić reached almost 41.5 thousand people through Facebook, with almost three and a half thousand reactions, along with hundreds of likes and shares.

„The key is that the audience wants to read a good story about successful people from their town,“ says Maja Fićović, explaining further:

„Although they primarily strive to be accurately informed about what is happening to them in the area where they live, they are aware that they can get that information from multiple sources, local and national media, even world media, while a good story, report, or an interview about a successful doctor, scientist, athlete, they can read in the local media outlets.“

In order to successfully create a balance between ‘good’ news and those that are not, the local media must have a sufficient number of journalists in their newsrooms and clearly divided tasks – sector reporting, she added.

„This means that they could offer their readers a ‘story about people’ at least once a week, which is really not realistic at the moment. Newsrooms are faced with a shortage of journalists and apply the most undesirable solution ‘everyone does everything’, focused on daily news reporting and stories that are supported through grants, in order to survive“.

Without stable funding, there are no good positive stories either.

„Such stories require the time and dedication of journalists, who unfortunately often get lost on the road full of obstacles, at points called ‘searching for money’, ‘political crises’, ‘narrative and financial reports’, etc.,“ concludes our interlocutor at the end of the interview.

In a complex crisis, there are not only risk factors, but also impairments to mental health

Finally, how does the crisis affect the health of citizens?

There is no doubt that the social crisis disrupts the normal functioning, the way of life of the individual, the immediate and the wider community because it affects the daily life and activities, and eventually the health of citizens of all age groups, confirmed Professor Jelena Minić.

Jelena Minic also runs the Equilibrim Center in North Mitrovica – a counseling center, that provides psychotherapy, consulting services and engages in research.

The results of numerous studies clearly show that a social crisis can have an impact on the mental health of people who are affected by it, she further confirms.

In times of social crisis, there is an increase in all psychological disorders (of various types and complexity) and they are often an expression, but also a consequence of the incongruity within the social system, he says.

Minic, who has been managing her own psychological and psychotherapy workshops for years, shares part of her experience:

„At the same time, the consequences of the social crisis on mental health and general psychophysical functioning are particularly noticeable in young people, because they are more sensitive to the effect of stressors, their stress reactions are more intense, and the outcomes are less favorable, due to the immaturity of the psychophysical apparatus and intense developmental changes. The more complex and long-lasting the crisis, the more hurtful is its impact on mental health, and then we are not only talking about risk factors, but about serious impairment of mental health“.


Journalists will probably continue to reactively chase events from „high politics“ in the upcoming year as well. Readers will continue the practice of clicking on headlines about “bad” news. This, however, does not prevent us from wishing everyone a good, peaceful year, and a handful of happy news.

By Tatjana Lazarević

This text was created as part of an EU-financed initiative that strengthens intercultural cooperation between Kosovo and Serbia. The content of the text is the sole responsibility of the KoSSev portal and does not necessarily represent the views of the European Union or other collaborators on the project.

Preuzimanje i objavljivanje tekstova sa portala KoSSev nije dozvoljeno bez navođenja izvora. Hvala na poštovanju etike novinarske profesije.