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A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media

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Vladimir Putin’s annual information convention, Dec 23, 2016 / kremlin.ru

Congratulations, US media! You’ve simply lined your first press convention of an authoritarian chief with an enormous ego and a deep disdain in your commerce and the whole lot you maintain expensive. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a brief hiatus when our chief wasn’t technically our chief — so fairly a couple of issues throughout Donald Trump’s press convention rang a bell. Not simply mine, in actual fact — learn this wonderful round-up in The Moscow Occasions.

Vladimir Putin’s annual pressers are alleged to be the media occasion of the yr. They’re usually held in late December, round Western Christmas time (we Orthodox Christians have a good time Christmas two weeks later and it’s not an enormous deal, in contrast to New Yr’s Eve). Which in all probability explains why Putin’s pressers don’t get a lot protection outdoors of Russia, besides in a comparatively slim area of interest of Russia-watchers. Putin’s pressers are televised reside throughout all Russian TV channels, attended by all types of media — federal information businesses, small native publications and international reporters based mostly in Moscow — and are alleged to overshadow each different occasion in Russia or overseas.

These items are rigorously choreographed, sometimes final a minimum of 4 hours, and Putin at all times comes off as an omniscient and benevolent chief tending to a flock of unruly however adoring kids. On condition that Putin might be a job mannequin for Trump, it’s no shock that he’s apparently taking a web page from Putin’s playbook. I’ve some observations to share with my American colleagues. You’re on this for at the very least one other 4 years, and also you’ll be coping with issues Russian journalists have endured for nearly twenty years now. I’m speaking about Putin right here, however see should you can apply any of the under to your individual chief.

  • Welcome to the period of bullshit.

Details don’t matter. You may’t damage this man with information or cause. He’ll at all times outmaneuver you. He’ll at all times wriggle out of no matter rigorously crafted verbal entice you lay for him. No matter he says, you gained’t be capable of problem him. He at all times comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in boring, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false ethical equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He is aware of it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You may’t observe up in your questions or problem him. So he can throw no matter he needs at you in response, and also you’ll simply must swallow it. Some journalists will attempt to preempt this by asking two questions without delay, towards the protests of their colleagues additionally vying for consideration, however that additionally gained’t work: he’ll reply the one he thinks is simpler, and ignore the opposite. Others will use this chance to go on an extended, rambling assertion vaguely disguised as a query, however that’s additionally dangerous techniques. Non-questions invite non-answers. He’ll mock you in your nervous stuttering and should you’re elevating a severe difficulty, reply with a imprecise, non-committal assertion (“Mr President, what about these horrible human rights abuses in our nation?” “Thanks, Miss. That is certainly a really severe difficulty. All people should respect the legislation. And by the way in which, don’t human rights abuses occur in different international locations as effectively? Subsequent query please”).

However your colleagues are there that can assist you, proper? In spite of everything, you’re all on this collectively?

Improper.

  • Don’t count on any camaraderie

These persons are not your companions or brothers in arms. They’re your rivals in a fiercely aggressive, crashing market and proper now the one foreign money on this market is no matter that man on the stage says. Whoever is fortunate to ask a query and be the primary to transmit the reply to the skin world wins. Don’t count on any solidarity or help from them. In case your query is stonewalled/mocked down/ignored, don’t count on a rival publication to select up the banner and observe up in your behalf. It’s on this man’s finest pursuits to pit you towards one another, combating over synthetic scarcities like room area, mic time or, in fact, his consideration. It’s getting particularly absurd as a result of some — more and more many — reporters will now include massive, shiny placards geared toward attracting the president’s consideration to names of their areas or particular points. That is what it appears to be like like:

Additionally, some individuals within the room aren’t actually there to ask questions.

  • Count on plenty of sycophancy and tender balls out of your “colleagues”

A mainstay of Putin’s press conferences is, in fact, softball questions. Which additionally occur to be Putin’s favorites. Mr President, is there love in your coronary heart? Who you can be celebrating New Yr’s Eve with? What’s your favourite meals? “Questions” of this kind, certain to soften Putin’s coronary heart, sometimes come from ladies working for small regional publications. A subtype of that is additionally statements-as-questions, however from individuals who actually love the person on the stage and can bob their head and take a look at the stage adoringly and say one thing to the tune of “Mr President, do you agree that plenty of media are treating you unfairly?”

One other sort of softball questions is hyperlocal points {that a} president isn’t even alleged to be coping with. Mr President, our highway is stuffed with potholes and native authorities aren’t doing something about it. Mr President, our faucet is leaking. Mr President, how a couple of chess membership in our village. It is a actual alternative for him to shine. He’ll scold the native authorities and order to have a brand new highway constructed. All of this, in fact, has been choreographed effectively prematurely.

Additionally, a few of these individuals actually love him and can meet his each reply with enthusiastic applause. There shall be individuals from publications that exist for no different cause than heaping fawning reward on him and attacking his enemies. However there may even be one token critic who shall be allowed to ask a “sharp” query, solely to be drowned in a copious quantity of bullshit, and the person on the stage will at all times be the winner (“See? I respect the media and free speech”).

  • You’re at all times dropping

This man owns you. He understands completely effectively that he is the information. You may’t ignore him. You’re at all times taking part in by his guidelines — which he can change at any time with none discover. You may’t — in Putin’s case — marketing campaign to vote him out of workplace. Your readership is dwindling as a result of advert budgets are shrinking — whereas his rankings are hovering, and if you wish to maintain your publication afloat, you’ll must report on the whole lot that man says as quickly as he says it, with none evaluation or fact-checking, as a result of 1) his followers won’t care if he lies to their faces; 2) whilst you’re busy choosing his lies aside, he’ll spit out one other mountain of bullshit and also you’ll be buried underneath it.

I might go on and on, however I believe at this level you see the place that is heading. See if any of this rings any bells should you lined Trump’s presser or watched it on-line.

P.S. You’re welcome to repost/reblog/republish this should you like.

P.P.S I’d wish to thank my colleagues and my affected person editors: Kevin Rothrock and Jim Kovpak aka Russia With out BS. Comply with them each if you wish to get Russia.

My identify is Alexey Kovalev, I’m a Russian journalist and I’m writing about propaganda, pretend information and Russian state media on noodleremover.information. It’s all in Russian, however right here’s an instance of what I’m doing in English. You may contact me at kovalever@gmail.com. I tweet as @Alexey__Kovalev.

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