With RFE/RL president Steven Korn departing, what is the future of RL Russian director Masha Gessen?

Posted: 03 Jan 2013   Print   Send a link
@LLHelsinnki, 2 Jan 2013: "Masha Gessen: will not leave Radio Liberty. 'That's impossible' Her American boss got fired for the bad reorganization http://izvestia.ru/news/542511" See also BBG Watch, 2 Jan 2013.

Forbes, 2 Jan 2013, Mark Adomanis: "You can say that Gessen is a bad editor, a poor manager, or someone who ought never to have been put in charge of Radio Liberty. I don’t know if any of those things are true, but could easily believe them if provided with evidence. I have, in the past, heard murmurs that Gessen can be difficult to work with because of her penchant for taking non-negotiable moral stances, and I wouldn’t find it shocking that the journalists at RFE/RL didn’t particularly care for her. But it is absurd, and remarkably tasteless, to portray one of Russia’s bravest and most outspoken voices of political opposition as a soulless apparatchik complicit in the Kremlin’s campaign to muzzle press freedom."

Washington Post, 3 Jan 2013, Kathy Lally: "Lyudmila Telen, editor of the Radio Liberty Web site, was among those told in September that she would get severance through the end of the year if she resigned immediately. 'Over the weekend they let us in the office for an hour to get our things,' she said, 'and they sent security guards to watch us.' 'When I was editor I understood very well we had to find a new audience, but I thought it would be wrong to throw out the old one,' she said, noting that the station had been becoming more innovative and was widely quoted for its scoops, interviews and political analysis. Gessen, speaking by telephone Thursday, said the station couldn’t ignore that its Web audience was dropping while the Russian Web audience was growing. 'We were preaching to the converted,' she said. 'Our job was to deliver content, and that’s what we’ve started to do.' She has formed partnerships with a few other independent sites, including TV Rain, an online television channel, which will use Radio Liberty content. 'It’s extremely easy to shut off access to a single Web site,' Gessen said. 'We need to have a lot of alternative ways to get our content out.'"

World Affairs, 31 Dec 2013, Judy Bachrach: "'This will be a fantastic, exciting time,' [RFE/RL VP] Julia Ragona promised RFE/RL journalists in the fall. It certainly was exciting, in its own Putinesque way. By late November, Ragona was warning all staff against posting entries on the mass purge on Facebook. ... Last week, Elena Polyakovskaya, yet another journalist openly supportive of the purged correspondents and critical of the new Russian website, found her contract was not going to be renewed. When I discovered this, I immediately phoned a person of considerable authority and rectitude, who questioned [new RFE/RL Russian director Masha] Gessen. Lo and behold, Polyakovskaya was informed her services would still be needed. 'You can see how journalists who come from totalitarian countries feel when we see the same kind of treatment at RFE/RL,' says one source. I can indeed. To that end, I am writing a fuller and much longer investigative essay on this and other related subjects come mid-January. Thanks to all of you who are helping to end the outrage. Even more sources welcome." -- In this piece, she also writes: "No one could understand ... why Korn and Ragona made the meek decision in September to shut down the organization’s Russian medium wave radio broadcasts." Perhaps a larger protest could have been mounted, but, ultimately, there is no getting around a nation's communications laws. If the news can't be transmitted within, then it must be transmitted into, the target country. This can be done via shortwave, no longer popular in Russia, or (until it's blocked) via the internet, which is popular there. See previous post for Judy Bachrach's previous article about the same subject.

Steven Korn letter sent to the Wall Street Journal in response to op-ed by John O'Sullivan: "[W]e had to lay off a number of Russian-based staff, in some cases because of the shift from radio that had been forced on us by Russian authorities and in others because it had become clear their skills were not well suited to the demands of our new approach. This process was inevitably wrenching both for those who were affected as well as for those who continued in their positions. However, suggestions that any staffers were treated harshly in this process are patently false."

RIA Novosti, 2 Jan 2012: "Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty President and CEO Stephen Korn said in a statement on Tuesday he resigns 'solely for personal reasons' starting from January 25. In the past months, the US Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) whose members are also members of the RFE/RL Board of Directors, have repeatedly criticized Korn for poor management of the Radio Liberty Russian service."

MetroPulse (Knoxville), 2 Jan 2012: "At the November meeting of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, Victor Ashe, Knoxville’s former mayor and U.S. Ambassador to Poland, criticized Korn’s management and called on him to resign. Ashe said the firing of 41 staffers in Russia had led to dissidents there viewing the American radio network 'not as a friend but a foe.' Hits for information from the broadcasters have dropped from 110,000 to 30,000 and Ashe says the current management is buckling under to Vladamir Putin and losing its audience."

See previous post about same subject.