Staunton, Aug. 29 – Only a few years ago, all 46 districts within Moscow Oblast had their own local newspapers, many of which were famous for their coverage positive and negative of local events and known as seedbeds for the training of journalists who would go on to acquire all-Russian names.
But the oblast administration, which wanted both to save money and to block any criticism, has destroyed these papers, imposing managers from the outside who block any criticism and eliminating journalism at that level by making the remaining papers little more than summaries of the oblast paper (svpressa.ru/politic/article/344386/).
Both the increasing grayness of the local media in Moscow Oblast and the absence of real work for journalists has led to the departure of many of the most promising newspaper workers there and even prompted the oblast officials to think about hiring immigrants to staff the papers regardless of their level of knowledge of Russian or the local situation.
Ever fewer residents of the region see any reason to read such papers in their new format and so print runs have fallen, advertising has disappeared, and the regional authorities refuse to make up the difference, a difference they have caused, local journalists say, by their own actions.
At present, journalists say, other regions have not copied the approach of Moscow Oblast. They hope this region is not a test case for what the central government may be planning for the entire country, but they fear that it is especially as the Kremlin has used the oblast adjoining Moscow as a testing ground before.
If that is the case, then the local papers to which Russians have learned to turn since the end of Soviet times are likely to pass from the scene, leaving local people less well informed, officials less often observed, and journalists the kind of opportunities for training that they have had in the past. In short, a tragedy all around.