In theory, this should be financed by people who care deeply about Russia.What do you think are the overall prospects for media in exile? The biggest ones will remain, but as for the rest — how will it all turn out?
I’m not an oracle, I can’t predict what will happen, but I think it really will be much easier for the big guys because they have a larger audience. It’s easier for them to present it to donors and say: “This is Russia, these are the people living here, you need to talk to them. We know everything about them, we understand them. Help us, this is important for the world."
It’s more difficult to say, “I’m from a media source covering hedgehogs in central Russia.” It will be harder to find funding. In a normal landscape, demand creates supply. But when you’re in a foreign environment, it’s unclear why European taxpayers or funds should support this.
Aside from that, it’s harder for you to reach your audience when you’re abroad. You still need someone “on the ground,” so as to not lose touch or your lines of communication. And there are big risks associated with this: you need to transfer money somehow, you need infrastructure to pay for it all. In general, this is a difficult feat for small media sources to accomplish.
Although, of course, you can try to survive on your own. For example, monetize your audience of 20 thousand subscribers on Instagram. 20 thousand subscribers can allow a media outlet to survive. These are Republika
’s official numbers.One of the recurring themes of Colta's project “Journalism: Overhaul” is the decline of journalistic standards. Does this have anything to do with the business models being used?
Today, standards have dropped due to extreme polarization. The media cannot rise above the fray, it is simply emotionally impossible.
If, for instance, you’re a media executive in exile, it is very difficult for you to write super objectively about the Russian government. The more opaque government departments don’t comment on anything. Due to the fact that you are a “foreign agent” or have limited access, more than half of sources won’t talk to you, but how can you present a different point of view if they do not talk to you? Ideally, sources should always be named.
But how can you check sources under the conditions that the media face in exile? How do you hold a source liable when it’s an anonymous leak? Information has become very difficult to verify, and standards, of course, are dubious.
But it’s also connected to the business models. The laws of the internet prioritize traffic and speed. For example, in war it’s difficult to fact-check and news needs to be delivered immediately, otherwise you lose the competition. That’s why all these irresponsible pieces are being published, including internationally. Later amendments do nothing — everyone only remembers the first message, but no one remembers the corrections or even reads them. Or I periodically see articles in which the whole point is who said what. In the good old days, “who said what” was not news at all. So quality becomes a victim of speed.
But on the other hand, as I said, I don’t want to offend any group indiscriminately. There are many competent journalists. But the income of media companies also clearly means they’re not getting the cream of the crop. We’re used to paying people little money and receiving little money ourselves, and there is nothing good about that.
This means that we either earn money somewhere else, or value ourselves so little that we cannot go into other professions and earn more. Society places a colossal burden on journalists; journalism is a socially important industry, but it is poorly paid. And this is a tragedy.
This encourages the smartest and most talented to leave for other industries, sometimes from the very beginning, when choosing an education. This was clearly the case before as well. PR always paid better than journalism. But still, this was not as disproportionate with the tech sector, which accumulates most of the advertising revenue and the best talent.Aside from The Bell, you have a YouTube project, which was originally called “Russians Are Okay!” When you closed it after February 24, you wrote: “The world that our project depicted <...> was simply wiped off the face of the Earth and will not return anytime soon, perhaps never.” But you still continued to make it, since March 2023 it has been published under the new title “This Is Osetinskaya”...How did this happen?
The old name, “Russians Are Okay!” is now associated with imperialism, and I do not want to participate in this discourse. The idea behind the project is different.
I don’t think that “Russians Are Okay” or “Russians Are Not Okay.” It was a blunt, straight-from-the-shoulder kind of name; I didn’t dig that deep. But bringing my achievements, my creativity, my business talents into the world under a brand associated with imperialism would simply kill everything.