I received my first ICFJ Knight Award back in 2013. Seven years ago. Sometimes when I look back at these times I have the feeling that it happened in a different century, on a different planet and with a different person. So many things have changed.
Who would believe that the whole world would be locked down and hundreds of thousands of people will be dying from a virus. Who would believe that the United States, which proudly called itself the fortress of democracy, would vote for Trump. Who would believe that Russia, the country where I live, the country which I love, will start a war against its brotherhood country Ukraine, the place where my family comes from, the country where I spent some of the best moments in my childhood. And thousands and thousands of people would die and the whole villages where I used to go fishing would disappear under the missiles of the Russian rocket systems. And who would believe that the officers of the Russian military would be traveling all over the world with deadly warfare agents and poisoning those whom the Kremlin considers its enemies.
If you work as an investigative reporter in Russia you have to be skeptical and you have to be cynical to protect your own sanity. You have to believe that the worst is still ahead in order to delude yourself and make believe that the present is not that bad. But I can tell you even Russian investigative reporters with their cynicism couldn’t have believed 7 years ago that the world would go crazy by 2020.
And in order to keep up with the planet we — Russian investigative reporters — decided to go crazy as well. We decided to launch a media outlet in the middle of the pandemic in one of the most hostile countries for journalists in the world.
Today I am receiving the ICFJ Knight Trailblazer Award not as a reporter, but as a founder of IStories, an independent investigative media platform. IStories stands for “Important Stories”. For us important stories are those that matter to the people and those that we can prove. We launched only half a year ago but I am very proud of my amazing colleagues who are already getting the most prestigious journalism awards in Russia for their stories. I am very proud that we promote the idea of collaborative journalism in Russia and that IStories has already published dozens of joint investigations with the regional and central media. I am very proud that IStories is becoming not only the platform where you can read stories, but also shares tools, techniques, code and everything we know so that younger generations of reporters can use our knowledge to improve their own reporting.
All of this wouldn’t be possible without my crazy and brave colleagues who believed in this crazy idea from the very beginning.
But not only them. IStories wouldn’t be possible without the support from the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project and its crazy founders Drew Sullivan and Paul Radu. I am proud to be part of this amazing and probably the best network of investigative reporters in the world. Drew and Paul taught me the ideas of collaborative journalism, the one that we at IStories try today to promote in Russia.
IStories wouldn’t be possible without the support of these crazy people from the ICFJ and the Knight Foundation. These people have dedicated their lives in trying to help the truth tellers working in the most dangerous places on Earth. Their support doesn’t let independent journalism die.
And in general I am really happy to be surrounded by so many crazy and brave people from different continents. Because I believe that when the world goes crazy only such crazy people — those who believe in the power of the truth and in the right of people to know it — can save it from a complete collapse.
Thank you for this recognition. I’m really grateful for the support.