Cut-out reporting on Russian TV


Long day on her feet and still more dishes to go for the modern Russian housewife: Turn on the tube and soak those feet.

In American journalism, if you want to steal someone else’s idea, the trick is to be tricky about it.  The modus operandi is to send out your reporter to do a knock-off piece that’s as shameless as generic-brand Lucky Charms.  If you’re especially lazy, and especially shameless, you do a quick hack job and then flesh it out with quotes from the original.

In Russian journalism, you do a cut-and-paste job.  Over the course of dinner tonight, no less than two stories on the Vesti television news came directly from a separate print source.  Meaning they literally filmed the two print articles — one a Rossiiskaya Gazeta article about handling the crisis and the other a Der Spiegel article about the Georgian government’s actions in the lead-up to the conflict — and read them aloud, occasionally highlighting or zooming in on parts of the text.

In terms of news broadcasting, this style of reporting is more boring than a high school Latin course as taught by a classmate of Laura Ingalls Wilder.  In terms of journalism, it’s just a straight-up lift.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s a niche market for regurgitating other organization’s news reports, which The Week has cornered in the U.S.  But Vesti is Russia’s most comprehensive news channel, covering all 12 of the country’s time zones and running informational programming 24/7.  Millions upon millions of viewers watch it every night as they eat their cutlets and rye bread.  And don’t feed me the old “bad economy” line: The government owns the channel, and as television is its primary method of social control, it could definitely dish out the cash for some original, if nonetheless biased, reporting.  (I’ve blogged more about this bias at University & State).

But this sort of thing flies in Russia, if only for one reason: Although almost everyone watches the TV news, nobody reads the newspaper (funny how this seems to be a catchphrase around the world, except in India).

And it’s not that surprising (here come’s the grossly national stereotype of the night); Americans cover up rottenness with a sparkly facade, deceive with a smile, whereas Russians will do something just as rotten but with surprising candor.


3 Responses to “Cut-out reporting on Russian TV”

  1. […] population” (ha, Chili Peppers quote for you there — that’s two in one post!), as I’ve written at Eagle & the Bear.  In fact, television is the primary method (besides those brainwave towers that I’m […]

  2. […] and the Bear writes about “cut-and-paste” TV journalism in Russia: “Over the course of dinner […]

  3. Lulz: “In terms of news broadcasting, this style of reporting is more boring than a high school Latin course as taught by a classmate of Laura Ingalls Wilder.”

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