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Excerpts from the JRL E-Mail Community :: Founded and Edited by David Johnson

News you can trust

Russian Television StudioIn a ritual that we are now sadly getting used to, Russia's main TV channels held back from reporting the breaking news of Monday's terrorist attack at Domodedovo Airport, instead preferring to continue with their scheduled programming.

Whether this was due to self-censorship, unwieldy management structures or orders from on high, the effect is the same: millions of ordinary Russians now no longer get breaking news from TV, instead relying on online media for news they can trust.

This has its origins in Soviet-era TV, which was designed to control the newsflow ­ but ended up with people simply not believing what they saw.

During the 1991 hard-line coup, for example, Soviet channels temporarily controlled by the junta ignored the battles on Moscow's streets, instead showing the ballet 'Swan Lake' in an effort to lull the population into inactivity.

This trend was broken by the pioneering work of NTV in the 1990s, where although oligarchs' views were often peddled there was also a tradition of non-scripted broadcasting and breaking news.

Over the last decade, this tradition has been largely lost, and as a result ordinary Russians now trust what they see on TV news about major events such as terrorist attacks less and less. With each attack, people's faith in the authorities to prevent them weakens. And with each delay in reporting breaking news, people's faith in TV to tell them the truth also weakens.

What is also depressing is that the reserve of talent for TV news broadcasters who are prepared to tell it straight without following a script has shrunk catastrophically.

Sometimes, however, tragedies such as the Domodedovo attack can lead to positive reforms. One such welcome change would be the return of real broadcast TV news. There are highly professional broadcasters still, such as Leonid Parfyonov and ex-Ren-TV anchor Olga Romanova, who would be able to restore trust in national channels.

Giving Parfyonov or Romanova the chance to helm a real daily news programme, with the resources ­ and the editorial responsibility ­ to break the news when it happens, would do wonders for restoring the reputation of Russian TV news.

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