Anastasia Kashevarova: ''I don't work in Life, I left because it became impossible to write what I want''
About a real journalist Osetinskaya, the humanity of Gabrelyanov and a future refuge for all centrists from the media
What has happened to Vladislav Surkov who lost much weight? For what will the mayor of Yekaterinburg Yevgeny Roizman answer to God? For whom does Alexei Navalny work? What is ''inner working'' of the news edition Life.ru and whether Aram Gabrelyanov chastises his journalists for breach of professional ethics? A former employee of Life news portal and journalist Anastasia Kashevarova answered these questions to Realnoe Vremya.
''There are no liberals in Russia — we just have the opposition which defends the interests of political or business elites''
Anastasia, in your opinion, what is the current state of Russian journalism? Well-known Russian journalist Igor Vittel, for example, believes that journalism has come to nothing and only propaganda has left. Do you agree with him?
Actually, propaganda is not a bad word in its original meaning – it is the spread, in-depth explanation of certain ideas, teachings, knowledge. I think that if a journalist says such thing, then, first, he does not know the terminology. Second, I have been working in journalism since I was 17, and I know it very well that there is a sharply negative attitude to young journalists, as well as to the youth by the older generation in general. This conflict of generations has always existed, but now for some reason it has acquired a very negative scale.
Young people have the desire to do real journalism, but the young do not know where, in what edition to go. Journalists do still know the art of writing, but the media has lost it — in editors, in top management. I have a bunch of colleagues who write great, but editors remove all emotion from the text, they leave only the essence, roughly speaking, a bare stick.
''As a journalist, I have always tried to cover both sides. For example, I have a negative attitude to Navalny as a person, but I understand that there are some things in his rhetoric, which are true.'' Photo: Maksim Platonov
I don't think that journalism in Russia is dead, I think that our media is dying — we have nowhere to go for a journalist-centrist. The situation is that now we have propaganda, jingoistic media… I would like to note that propaganda is not identical to a lie, they just have another agenda. There are liberal editions, although in reality there are no liberals in Russia, we just have the opposition that defends the interests of political or business elites. So, we have the media controlled by these ''groups''.
As a journalist, I have always tried to cover both sides. For example, I have a negative attitude to Navalny as a person, but I understand that there are some things in his rhetoric which are true. If a person is lying, it does not mean that he does it constantly, and I think it is wrong to pour him with zelyonka because it is very negatively for the government to make a sacrifice of the opposition, which pursues its own business interests.
You probably know that I'm no longer in Life, I left because it became impossible to write what I want. Based on the current situation, we have decided to make our own centrist media, which will give an objective, adequate assessment of what is happening. Everyone gives information, but no one explains why it is happening like this.
There are different opinions about Life, but it is still a phenomenon in the world of media. Why do you think this project is a success and what is the trend Aram Gabrelyanov caught that he could create such an agency?
I have worked with Aram Ashotovich for eight years, and during that time I thought a lot, analyzed, and I can say that the chef (I am not working with him now but he is still shef for me) has always wanted to change something, he always relied on young people, creativity. He was constantly looking for something new, he has long been saying that television is dying and that we do not need to rely on the brand of the media — we need to rely on the brand of a journalist.
''Aram Ashotovich is very rough, but he is sincere in everything and people trust him. I don't know any media manager who would come to work earlier than his staff, who would know the name of every journalist (even an intern), who would know that one journalist's cat has kitten, the other's mom got sick, and a third's son was born — he knows everything about everyone.'' Photo: gazeta.ru
Aram Ashotovich is very rough, but he is sincere in everything and people trust him. I don't know any media manager who would come to work earlier than his staff, who would know the name of every journalist (even an intern), who would know that one journalist's cat has kitten, other's mom got sick, and a third's son was born — he knows everything about everyone. Such personnel policy plays only benefits because it's the strongest school of journalism, when you are treated not as author but as a person. He understands that if a person is in a bad mood, he would either not write or write it poorly. He's talking to employees, teach them, try identify new trends, he does huge work.
''You can't even imagine how depressed are those people when they see all this seamy side''
Quite a lot of harsh criticism can be heard in the address of journalists of Life — what did you fell about it when you was an author of this publication?
I also have criticized by colleagues (for which my boss, by the way, chided me), and inside the edition we argued repeatedly. Honestly, I have a dual attitude to this situation. On the one hand, when you find some exclusive and run to overtake everyone, then you are just added by a bunch of journalists because they are not able to get such information, plus the journalists of Life can enter any territory, to go to a private party, to pass through the cordon, through the FSO. But there is another side. Consider a situation when because of somebody else's fault a child was lost, and you need to get a comment from his mother. If you show this emotion, on the one hand, you're doing a good thing as a warning to others to be more attentive, more cautious, but on the other hand, as a mother, and I can imagine how a journalist come to me with questions in this situation…
Here's a story: in Life the incident department was headed by Nikita Mogutin, and when they wrote something about children (a child's head cut off or something), then I, as mom, always have reacted violently to the point of depression. Nikita didn't understand it: he gave me links, he joked about some insane people who committed these crimes. I asked him how he could say such things, although he did it without malice and he was also worried. When he himself had a child, he came to me and said, ''Look, now I understand why you react to such things.'' Yes, they serve the news without embellishment, but you can't even imagine how depressed are those people when they see all this seamy side. They show real life, and if they say about the journalists of Life" that they are shameless and heartless. We, by the way, never showed pretend sorrow as journalists of other publications did.
''If someone believes that people are cattle, he is absolutely wrong''
Anastasia, in your opinion, are the opposition media flourishing or not? Whether the forces are equal, the state-owned media, of course, have huge resources, but the opposition may well to compensate the coverage of audience thanks to the Internet?
You know, there's state media that receive billions of investments, but their effectiveness is zero because they still have the Soviet approach to journalism. Since they can't adjust and keep pace with the real needs of the audience, I, of course, cannot say that the opposition publications win, but it belongs to those media that do not belong to the state, they have more rights for creativity. Creativity is always appreciated by the reader.
''By the influence on creative thinking class the highest rating I would give to RBC Elizaveta Osetinskaya — I really liked their investigations, although they were also with a certain bias, but they still tried to do real journalism.'' Photo: gdb.rferl.org
The person always feels when he is not said everything, when the information is submitted in a special way. It is hard to deceive the reader actually, and if someone believes that people are cattle, he is absolutely wrong. For example, the same Navalny's rally against corruption: the state media began feeding him like all the young people came out for Navalny. But the youth came not for him — they went out against corruption, they came out for the slogan.
Returning to the ineffectiveness of such media, I will say that the main problem lies in the fact that their leadership is very far from the real situation in Russia.
What Russian media you would give the highest score?
Depends on criteria. By effectiveness and the influence I would give the high score to Gabrelyanov and his holding company. By the influence on creative thinking class the highest rating I would give to RBC Elizaveta Osetinskaya — I really liked their investigations, although they were also with a certain bias, but they still tried to do real journalism.
If not to take publications but only journalists, I can name a political journalist Mikhail Rubin, now working at Dozhd Channel Alexander Yunoshev from Life, Ekaterina Vinokurova — perhaps I do not like her writing style but I like the fact that she writes emotions — it certainly attracts.
What do you think about regional journalism?
Many regional publications sometimes trigger much stronger than federal ones. For example, as for many resignations of governors in the regions everything began with regional journalists. But today it is very difficult to survive for regional media because they face a choice — either take money from governors and thus to gloss over some things or eat the last crust of bread and write the truth. But regional agenda is now gaining momentum, and I think that in the coming years it will become one of the main ones, especially before the election.
''Vladislav Surkov has always been a handsome man. Here he lost momentum. I can't say for sure what happened to him. Maybe it is a diet, as Ramzan Kadyrov said. Somebody says he is tired, somebody suspects he is using some substances, but these are presuppositions.'' Photo: Dmitry Azarov/Kommersant
''I can't say for sure what happened to him. Maybe it is a diet, as Ramzan Kadyrov said''
Your scandalous article that the Kremlin supports and finances Navalny appeared in 2014. At the same time, famous political experts insist than the West gives him money. Whose is Navalny?
The Kremlin is quite a general notion, and the Kremlin doesn't mean Putin. The Kremlin has many towers. If we have a look at those whom Navalny investigated, we will see there is Medvedev and his circle, there is Volodin and his circle. In addition, we have never seen him investigating other towers, though there is quite a lot of information available in the materials he used. He carried out an order, of course. What impedes Navalny as a popular brand to get orders from both Americans and other Kremlin towers? He makes money. He can't earn it and maintain all his guys (he has a regiment) working as a lawyer. I just don't understand why the state media write such single-minded and silly pieces, though it all can be dug (it is what we are doing now) and show people that it is not so simple. It will be a lie to say he is an altruist and fights for Russia. The person just wants power, fame, money.
Your post with Vladislav Surkov's recent photo caused a heated discussion (even Ramzan Kadyrov joined). What are the rumours wandering in the backstage about what happened to Surkov?
There was another photo from another angle. But I think the angle is not the point. Vladislav Surkov has always been a handsome man. Here he lost momentum. I can't say for sure what happened to him. Maybe it is a diet, as Ramzan Kadyrov said. Somebody says he is tired, somebody suspects he is using some substances, but these are presuppositions. Only Vladislav Surkov and his family know the truth now. Probably he has worked a lot, did not get enough sleep? But he needs to have his hair cut (laughing).
Anastasia, during the talk you mentioned your new project. Could you tell about it in detail?
We have two projects: the first one is designed for the masses. It will be called This is – it is a one-page site. A user is offered such a section as This is Media, This is Culture, This is Power, This is Science and others on the site. You click on a section and you are offered lists of communities depending on the chosen section. For instance, This is Media on Facebook, Vk.com and other social networks. In other words, every section will have its own pages in all social networks.
We have two projects: the first one is designed for the masses. It will be called This is – it is a one-page site. A user is offered such a section as This is Media, This is Culture, This is Power, This is Science and others on the site
As they are not our sites (because social networks belong to different owners – both Russian and foreign), consequently, they can ban these communities and affect them. In this case, we additionally open Daily Storm social and political page where we are going to have a centrist position and explain readers what is happening in society without any inclination – we want to revive real journalism that, unfortunately, has gone underground now. We also want to launch such a genre as non-fiction. We will present stories through people. We tried to make analogous longreads in Life, but today Life is transforming. And it seems that they did not want to spend a lot of effort on it.
We also try to create a new, modern language in journalism because that verbal rubbish that is dominating in many notes now distracts a person from the keynote. A person reads a resolution written by Rossiyskaya Gazeta and doesn't understand that, actually, his taxes will increase and he will pay the state more money. You read these protocol articles and understand you are sleeping on the third paragraph. We won't have it.
Have you already decided where your Darth Vader from Life's editorial will be?
I will take Darth Vader with me. It is my present, though our Sasha Bayazitova wanted to take it away. I have a cat and Darth Vader – they are my mascots. It is in Life, I have not visited it yet. Probably Bayazitova has already put it on her table. But I will take it – a too big present for Life (laughing).