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#21 - JRL 9321 - JRL Home
Date: Sat 17 Dec 05
From: Robert Bruce Ware (rware@siue.edu)
Subject: Condolences for Herspring (JRL 9320) [re: Western media and Russia]

To Dale Herspring's credit, he regrets (JRL 9320) his superficial generalizations about western media coverage of Russia which appeared in a single issue of JRL (9309). His publication of these regrets would be appropriate if only most western media were to publish similar regrets concerning the superficial generalizations that appear in their coverage of Russia in nearly every issue of JRL. Dale is now correct in acknowledging that some of this coverage is better than others. When it comes to the North Caucasus, the Los Angeles Times has often done a good job, and has rarely done a very bad job. Yet readers of the Washington Post and the Boston Globe have been seriously misled for years. The CS Monitor, which was once good for Caucasus coverage, has gone down hill. The New York Times gets almost as much wrong as it gets right, and for a long time the North Caucasus coverage in the British popular press was simply not worth reading. However, during the last year the British press, especially the Guardian has been doing better. Of course, this has still fallen within the paradigm of Putin bashing that seems to be inevitable in nearly all western media, but Putin has made some serious missteps in the North Caucasus, and recently some of the writers at the LAT, the Guardian, and occasionally even the NYT, AP, and Reuters have been catching on to just a few of the complexities that these entail.

I found Dale's original criticisms to be helpful. Indeed it does seem that part of the reason for poor coverage of Russia is a widespread (not omnipresent) system of rotation or relatively short-term assignment. This does not apply to someone like Fred Weir, and it has not interfered with Kim Young's excellent reports, but I still miss Maura Reynolds. I wish Dale had said a little more about the herd mentality, the flagrant careerism, pressures from senior editors, and the self-complacent mindset that sooner or later will be the downfall of the West. Most of all, I miss the eXile's annual March Madness critique of western coverage. (If it still appears, I haven't seen it in a while.) Of course, the eXile's critique was even more superficial than its targets, but how else to cope with ubiquitous superficiality.

Dale was on the right track from the start. We need to help him refine some of his criticisms, but not retract them.