Recommendations for additions to the Russia expert media outlet mix

Subject: Reaction to a piece in #217/Top Russian Media
Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2015
From: Sarah Lindemann-Komarova <echosiberia@gmail.com>

Recommendations for additions to the Russia expert media outlet mix: Response to JRL #217, Russia Direct’s “Top 10 Russian media any Kremlin watcher needs to know” Uliana Malashenko’s “special round-up of the most influential and interesting media outlets that provide insights into political, economic and social spheres in Russia.”

By Sarah Lindemann-Komarova
[Founder, Siberian Civic Initiatives Support Center 1995 – 2014. Helped to establish this as the hub for the first civil society development support network in the former Soviet Union.]

It was somewhere between an “ugh” and a “yawn” that I decided to offer my own list of media sources worth knowing in response to the recent Russia Direct article. The whole concept of Kremlin watching seems outdated (ugh) and the yawn, everything on the list is well known to anyone who has discovered Russia Direct or JRL. More troubling, it is essential that America understand Russia better and following each of the 10 media outlets recommended regularly will not help you do that. What it gives you is the well developed and well financed vision and arguments of two sides of the political elite. Imagine trying to understand America through the prism of the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox News and MSNBC. If I hadn’t added the Portland (Maine) Press Herald to my mix, everything about what is happening there would be confusing.

The roots and edges of a society are found in the community, that is where the future will be defined regardless of what the political elite spins. As a foreigner trying to understand a country, I have discovered the most useful clues appear in the nuances of daily life, the things that surprise you, new information. The young man who paused on the snowy path yesterday to make sure the older woman leaning on a fence was ok. Front-page news she shared immediately with another woman who witnessed this small act of kindness and was equally impressed, “it makes you feel good about the next generation of young men”. If you do not live in a country, the best way to capture the nuances is through local and regional Internet outlets or community focused NGO sites. The following is my media mix for keeping up and trying to understand the two communities I am most connected to. The first is geographic, where I live, Siberia and Akademgorodok. The other relates to my work, NGOs and civil society development.

Local:

Community Foundation for the Development of Akademgorodok: This NGO site will give you an idea of the cultural activities and actions happening here. No politics, no commentary. http://www.academfond.org/

Academ.info:

This is a community news outlet that covers events, crimes and local issues. Of particular interest are on- line press conferences where a wide variety of people answer questions submitted by viewers. Recent guests include the District Prosecutor, Director of the advertising company responsible for the new Novosibirsk Region branding campaign and the young woman who created a local movement demanding improved access to emergency care for children when her son died in the ambulance on the way to a hospital. Interviews, such as a recent talk with a member of the Novosibirsk Coordinating Council for the Defense of Moral and Traditional Values, are also provide important insights. http://www.academ.info/conference

Regional:

NGS is a regional news outlet. Based in Novosibirsk, it also covers neighboring regions Krasnoyarsk, Omsk and Kemerovo. Here, I would also recommend the on-line conferences that cover an astonishing array of topics from “Charity During the Crisis” to “The new personal bankruptcy law, plus’s and minus’s” to “The Autism Epidemic”, even “The Business of Children: Who needs children’s beauty contests?”. The guests are interesting to watch, I was particularly struck by the behavior of Artem Loskytov, a candidate for the opposition PARNAS party until they were disqualified, who had to be told several times by the journalist to stop using his cell phone during the interview. Often even more interesting than the guests are the questions submitted by viewers. This was true during a March 30 interview with opposition leader and Novosibirsk Federal Duma Representative (party list candidate he has never lived or worked in Novosibirsk) Ilya Ponomarev. Currently residing in California, it was a rare opportunity for constituents to dialogue with their elected representative. All this and much more are on-line here. http://news.ngs.ru/conferences/online/

SibFm is a hipster on-line magazine that has interesting stories and great pictures. http://sib.fm/

Civil Society Development National Agency for Social Information is a Moscow based NGO that was created in the first wave of US supported NGO development. They have stayed true to their grassroots and maintained strong and respectful ties with regional NGO leaders. This is the best source for anyone interested in NGO and civil society development in Russia. http://www.asi.org.ru/

I am sure there is a similarly rich array of Internet outlets in all regions of Russia. I recommend you choose a topic and region you are most interested in, Yandex or Google search a bit and add some local, regional and NGO sites to your mix.