Staunton, April 19 – Kremlin limitations on what newspapers can publish have made the print media in Russia so boring that the public isn’t buying them anymore, leading to the disappearance of many papers and magazines and the collapse of the print runs of those which remain, Said Bitsoyev says.
In Moskovsky komsomolets, the journalist argues that the reason the six largest newspapers in Russia now have a combined print run of under one million copies is not the Internet as many assume and the government insists but rather the way in which regime restrictions have affected the content of these outlets (mk.ru/social/2022/04/19/pochemu-u-zapadnykh-gazet-tirazhi-bolshe-chem-u-rossiyskikh.html).
In the 1990s, newspapers like Izvestiya regularly published exposes and that of people like Boris Berezovsky. Such articles made that paper so popular that on occasion, “it became impossible to purchase a copy of it in any kiosk in the country.” But now, it is impossible to imagine something like that.
“Many newspapers have been forced to shift” to stories that the regime won’t be offended by, he continues. That may save them from being closed down, but it has had the effect of leading ever more former readers to stop looking to them for news. And talk in the Duma about giving prosecutors the power to close papers without a court decision will make things worse.
According to Bitsoyev, “today it is a rare journalist or head of a newspaper who will risk publishing a serious unmasking of an oligarch or major government bureaucrat” because all in the newspaper business fear that if they do, they will at a minimum get a black mark and more likely will lose their license to operate.
But the result is that the print media in Russia are becoming increasingly boring, and Russians aren’t buying them anymore. Napoleon called journalists “street cleaners working with a pen,” and Americans to this day say that the press keeps a check on all parts of the government and thus constitutes a “fourth” power.
If newspapers can’t perform that function, Bitsoyev says, they not only lose their raison d’etre but they lose their readers first of all.