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#12 - JRL 9310 - JRL Home
From: Eugene Ivanov (eugene_ivanov@comcast.net)
Subject: RE: 9308-Johnsons Russia List/Writing about Russia
Date: Fri, 02 Dec 2005

I think that the problem with some Western journalists writing about Russia is the same as with many of their colleagues around the globe: lack of real professionalism.

First of all, there might be a language issue. Im not sure about others, but American journalists seem to rotate through host countries frequently, staying in one place for no more than two years on average (am I right here?). They are therefore likely to come to Russia with only rudimentary Russian at best. What, then, will they rely upon as a source of information? Embassys briefs? The Washington Post?

Then there is an inability to collect and check basic facts. The empty space is inevitably filled with cliches. Thats how all the regimes overthrown by color revolutions suddenly become pro-Moscow. The Pro-Moscow regime of Kuchma? The Pro-Moscow regime of Shevarnadze?

Cliches are further aided by name tags. You throw in KGB, Stalin, Gulag -- and a smart reader will guess the rest. Thats why a small lamp on the desk of a TV host (a fixture of any modest US office, $20 apiece) becomes Stalinist. Thats why everyone should be regularly reminded that Putin used to work for the KGB ("President Putin, a former KGB officer,..."). Why on earth Russian journalists never use the line President Bush, a former alcoholic, ?

And then there is a lack of curiosity. Thats why charges against Khodorkovsky are never being explicitly articulated. Whatever the official charges against him Whatever? Isnt it the responsibility of a journalist to explain what the official charges against Khodorkovsy really were and why these charges were wrong?

Russian newspapers use harsh language against authorities, including Putin, all the time. No Western journalist can possibly match the cruel language of, say, Novaya Gazeta. Its not harshness that turns serious journalism into cheap propaganda. Lack of substance does.