BROOKLYN, New York -- Everyone knows the sorry state of affairs of America's newspaper business and its derelict advertising revenue models, but I didn't think that one of the nation's most prestigious newspapers would sink to this.
Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves - I totally did think they could sink to this, but I'm still disappointed that they have. Earlier this summer, my compatriot Itchy forwarded me a link to an advertising supplement on washingtonpost.com titled "Russia Now." I had thought that it was a one-off insert, but I have now realized that the Post is making this a regular monthly feature in its newspaper.
The segment is filled with articles lauding Russia's political leaders and celebrating its business-friendliness. But more troubling than the propaganda is that while the Post does rightly place the words "A Paid Supplement to The Washington Post" at the top of the Russia Now webpage, nowhere on the site does it say who is actually paying for it. On its website, it bills the supplement as an "Advertorial," a chilling new word which suggests that the paper's own editorial content may be up for sale (and a word, I was saddened to learn, that has entered the dictionary, alongside the likes of "edutainment" and "celebutante.")
Much of the content of Russia Now appears to be original, with hard-hitting articles like "How to Register Your Stay and Stay [With?] Friends" (it's a simple matter of going to the post office, apparently). The rest is press pickups from other news agencies, most of them owned by the Russian government - for example, there is a great interview by RIA-Novosti with South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity, who speaks unchallenged about the "thousands" of civilian deaths as the result of "Georgian crimes."
Another participant in this scheme, Britain's Daily Telegraph, is a bit more forthcoming, advising: "This online supplement is produced and published by Rossiyskaya Gazeta (Russia), which takes sole responsibility for the content." More honest, however, would be to point out that not only is Rossiyskaya Gazeta wholly owned by the Russian government, it is in fact the official mouthpiece of the government, as it is the paper of record for all decrees and legislation. In addition to the Post and the Telegraph, the supplement is also printed by Indian newspaper The Economic Times, Bulgaria's Duma and Brazil's Journal do Brasil. Russia Now is also produced by The Voice of Russia, an answer to America's similarly-named government broadcaster. Russia Now can also be found as a stand-alone English-language website called "Russia Beyond the Headlines."
The pages of newspapers are filled with advertisements from private businesses, multi-national corporations, and even sovereign governments who are trying to sell you something. Newspapers regularly print advertising inserts imploring readers to visit Ireland or not to be racist. They even sometimes print ads that look like news stories right next to real articles, as the Los Angeles Times did earlier this year on their front page, or the New York Times does on its website every day.
The difference here as that the drivel printed and broadcast by the likes of RIA-Novosti, Russia Today, or Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and here reprinted by Russia Now, is regarded as legitimate news in the completely unfree Russian news media market. The Russian government is paying money to foreign media to reprint its sham news - news which it foists on its own citizens on a daily basis, and which is rightfully disregarded by the legitimate independent press. Is this the state of America's newspapers then? Accepting money from foreign governments to reprint their vile propaganda? So much is being made of the advertisers fleeing Glenn Beck's program on Fox News for his outrageous demagoguery; I think it is time that the news media start turning away certain advertisers, especially one that poses as large a danger to the legitimate news as the Russian government.
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