The Paul Klebnikov Prize for Excellence in Journalism
First of all, I would like to express my deep appreciation to the International Center for Journalists, the Paul Klebnikov Fund and to all of the Klebnikov Family. Thank you for your support, thank you for your faith in a strong and independent Russian media. The prestige of this award will give me and my colleagues the protection and strength we need to continue our work.
Paul Klebnikov was one of the best business journalists in Russia. He launched the Russian version of Forbes and gave all Russian reporters and editors a model for a high level of professionalism. At my publication, we all closely watched what news and themes he chose for Forbes, how he told success stories, how professionally he promoted the magazine. We learned a lot from him and his team.
Among business journalists now in Russia, the name Paul Klebnikov is a brand. And I’m proud that the Klebnikov family see me and the Delovoy Kvartal team as followers of Paul and keeper of his ideals.
The situation with press freedom in Russia is not simple. When I watch news on Russian TV-channels that are mostly controlled by the government, I feel like throwing up. Everything is so fine in the country, they say. Well, it’s not. But here, in the US, I read the newspapers, watch TV. Everything is so terrible in my country, they say. Well, it’s not that either.
There is an independent press in Russia. And the business press has more opportunities to remain independent. We work for the part of society that demands objectivity and fairness. Readers of business publications like mine are a powerful force in our country. Not all of them are intellectuals like some Russian teachers or scientists. For example, some think Kafka is a sort of wine. But these people are almost the only community in Russia that is proactive, not reactive. They are creators of new companies, new workplaces, new ideas. And the more we – journalists – provide them the information they need to develop their businesses and the Russian economy, the better life will be in Russia. That is why I like my job so much.
Let me talk about press freedom for a moment. In my opinion the problem with Russian journalism is not just the pressure from authorities. The problem is with the journalists themselves. Many simply do not understand that their boss is the reader, not the mayor, not the governor, and even not the president. The politicians are not long-term subscribers: They’re often voted out of office every four years.
You are some of the most powerful journalists in the U.S. and I appreciate that you care about press freedom in my country. I’d like to make a recommendation: When you donate to programs supporting journalism in Russia, please look at the program goals. Do they help management deal with intense pressure from advertisers? Do they give concrete tools to help increase circulation so that we can stay financially independent? ICFJ and the Paul Klebnikov Fund provide these practical skills. This is far more valuable that a panel discussion on press freedom.
Freedom of press is very important for every country. What’s equally important is to learn how to remain independent. Slaying the dragon is just part of the job. The second and the most difficult part is how not to become a dragon yourself. In my view, that’s the secret of a free press and free society.
Thank you again, on behalf of me and all my team at Delovoy Kvartal for this honor.