Russia Today home to 'naive' journalists


Liz Wahl said RT "whitewashes" the actions of Vladimir Putin

It's a sad but familiar story. Bright-eyed kids make their way to the big city seeking fame and fortune. They think they get a break in the business, only to find themselves caught up in a dark, nefarious world where they have to sacrifice their ethics to get ahead.

The law business in The Firm, perhaps? Or maybe stock trading in Oliver Stone's Wall Street? Or Swimming With Sharks' dismal take on the film industry?

Start Quote

They hire young and mould you into the 'journalist' they want you to be”

End Quote A former RT employee Buzzfeed

According to Buzzfeed writer Rosie Gray, it's the sad fate that awaits young journalists who sign on with RT (formerly Russia Today), thinking they are employed by a legitimate news organisation.

She writes:

Former and current RT employees from both the Moscow headquarters and its D.C. bureau, which heads a channel called RT America, described to BuzzFeed an atmosphere of censorship and pressure, in which young journalists on their first or second job are lured by the promise of a relatively well-paying position covering news for an international network.

Instead, she says, they're "producing Russian propaganda" bankrolled by Russian President Vladimir Putin's government.

She quotes a former employee: "They hire young and mould you into the 'journalist' they want you to be … blinded by ambition, eager to please and quite frankly inexperienced."

RT has been around since 2005, expanded in the US in 2009 and is currently available to 644 million people in 100 countries.

Its website touts that it "covers the major issues of our time for viewers wishing to question more and delivers stories often missed by the mainstream media to create news with an edge".

The network's reporting on the Ukrainian story, however, has garnered RT the most attention - and not in a good way.

RT has been sharply criticised for taking a pro-Russian slant toward the crisis. Opinion show host Abby Martin made international headlines when she went off-script to denounce Russia's Ukraine actions. Then presenter Liz Wahl upped the ante, quitting on-air.

"I cannot be part of a network funded by the Russian government that whitewashes the actions of Putin," she said.

Not everyone is abandoning the RT ship, however. One American host who continues to plug away on RT America is Larry King, the 80-year-old former CNN and syndicated radio host. Although he has been pressured to pull his two shows, Larry King Now and Politicking, off the network, he's stood firm so far.

Start Quote

Their motives appear to be a mix of careerism, naivete and utter incuriosity”

End Quote Jonathan Chait New York magazine

"It would be bad if they tried to edit out things. I wouldn't put up with it," he told the Daily Beast.

"As long as they don't, as long as they're carrying stuff critical of them, I've got no problem with it."

New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait speculates on the thought process of someone who works for RT:

Their motives appear to be a mix of careerism, naivete and utter incuriosity. The modal career arc of an American RT reporter appears to be an ambitious but not terribly bright 20-something aspiring journalist who, faced with the alternative of grim local-news reportage, leaps at the chance to make two or three times the pay while covering world affairs, sort of.

And RT Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan has responded to the Buzzfeed piece, sort of.

In a post on the RT website, she sarcastically answers five questions put to her by the Buzzfeed writer before the story's publication.

When asked if RT regularly has meetings at the Kremlin, for instance, she writes that she doesn't have to go because she already lives there, with all other TV executives in Russia.

She also mocks the idea of getting information from former employees. "Are you sure?" she asks.

"It is highly unlikely you could reach actual former-RT employees as it is company policy to unleash the KGB on anyone who dares to leave."

Zaid Jilani, of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, writes that for all the criticism of RT, the type of moral dilemmas its young employees face are not unlike what most Washington journalists deal with at one time or another.

"Working in Washington taught me we're all a little bit like the good folks who work at RT America - struggling against editorial censors, doing our best to follow our conscience despite sometimes suffocating pressures from our publishers and sponsors," he writes.

To the casual observer, there may be some irony in Buzzfeed - best known for click-bait headlines and what-kind-of-X-are-you quizzes - criticising another outlet's journalism.

The website has started to regularly turn out some serious political and social commentary, however.

For that matter, so has RT - accidentally, critics would say, and perhaps only on issues that paint the US in a bad light.

Slate's David Weigel writes that all the recent attention has severely damaged RT's credibility, however:

It was Martin's on-air denunciation of the Ukraine incursion that woke up the media, again, to the strangeness of RT. It was anchor Liz Wahl's on-air resignation and Martin's quick back-peddling that deepened the strangeness, and brought new media attention, and will probably make it even harder for RT to book top guests. No secret here: D.C. (and New York) are in ready supply of pundits who want to go on TV shows and collect clips of themselves to show bookers for other TV shows. RT was a possible stop along the way, but some tanks in Crimea might have ended that.



This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    #79 Nadila

    This blog will close soon.

    My problem is to understand ´right nationalists´--the riots did not show this to me --to join the EU. NATO is a problem --as is the attempt to delete Russian as an official language-- Lithuania ?

    My views are on the blog --understanding of the situation, but cannot accept that the problem is ONLY ´ultra nationalist´


  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    according to these comments , the BBC is right wing , left wing , communist , fascist , Zionist , antisemetic , pro E.U. anti E.U.
    therefor must do an excellent job of being truly unbiased. By the way I have lived in a dozen countries , and the BBC is the most trusted news program

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    80% of my friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbours don't support the new regime of "right nationalists" ruling the country now. I live in Kharkiv (east of Ukraine) and my friends from Donetsk, Lugansk and other smaller towns (east) and Crimea would be happy to join Russia. Crimea is lucky to have referendum. All are efforts to join RF are considered as separatism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    #76 Nadila

    " the majority of Ukrainians living in the eastern part of Ukraine don't support ultra-nationalism of new authorities."

    --Can you explain ?


  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    No diff to how our Media operate. It's undeniable that our reporters who reflect Fgn Policy get most exposure, fast promotion & best postings. Anybody with a smidgen of Neutrality cannot help but determine that Reporters & NGOs have taken it upon themselves to stoke propaganda & provoke hostile re-actions. Deceit aimed directly at us with No Consequences.

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I'm Ukrainian and unfortunately many things written here don't have much in common with the truth. RT provides mostly true information as well as the majority of Ukrainians living in the eastern part of Ukraine don't support ultra-nationalism of new authorities. Yes, we are pro-Russians and not because Putin makes us to do so. RT doesn't whitewash! You just don't want to beleive that it's true

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    RT never shows the savage acts of the Assad regime in Syria that Russia immorally supports with weapons and diplomacy resulting in over 150,000 Syrians killed and millions displaced. This shows a pathologic level of moral depravity of Russian leaders that is also visible in Crimea and toward Ukraine. It's uncivilized behavior covered up by transparently false reporting on RT. Russia = rogue state.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    #72 cont.

    -- but NOT the eastward expansion of NATO.

    The present un-necessary problem.

    In 2007 he expressed his dissatisfaction and it was ignored--

    Putin offered his hand in friendship -- the USA, UK and NATO

    --bit it !

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    RT promotes miss-information on all topics. This week they aired a show detailing the negative impact fracking would have on the enviroment in Europe. They are pro active in discouraging Europe from developing their own resources. They want Europe to continue to be dependent on Russia's Oil and Gas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    "After he took office as president in 2001, Putin gave a speech to the German Bundestag in German. The move was unusual for a foreign guest of the German state and it sent a clear message. In his speech, Putin supported the eastward expansion of the EU and pleaded for strong ties between Russia and Europe."

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    #70 Rich

    "to foreign policy or politics. The BBC reporting on the EU makes RT reporting on Crimea look positively neutral."

    Then the journalists (see Europe Hewitt blog) hide behind Twitter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Whilst I stand my view that much of this lies at the feet of kids who want to be celebrities rather champions of integrity and justice; I will grant that the BBC, Fox et al are just as blinkered and biased as RT when it comes to foreign policy or politics. The BBC reporting on the EU makes RT reporting on Crimea look positively neutral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    #67 bs


    -but you are not expected to notice it.

    --suggests incompetence at high level.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.


    Hague wants harder EU sanctions.

    He argues for more national sovereignty within the EU --

    --now the EU should dance to the UK (and his) wishes ???

    (supports my #61 observations)

    -- rather slimy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    I don't see BBC better than RT on international politics. Nazi or holocaust is in headline list nearly every day , Israel is excluded from HYS, the BBC pushed invasion of Iraq, bombing Syria, aggressive stances on Ukraine, hoped for Sochi terrorism, ungracious when Sochi succeeded, and has been uninformative about abuses of the GCHQ, negative about Snowden, and a neocon soapbox provider. My taxes?

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    If there is one name for propaganda in the news media world, that is FOX News. Is there another name for propaganda in news media? That is BBC. A spade is calling other a spade. Irony. Did any of you had any guts to question the bias in your media? Those had guts left BBC. watched Outfoxed? Aren't you guys paid by Downing Street? How you guys get sound sleep while making a living like this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Right, and I wanted to reply all along to #52 also. Sorry for the confusion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    #62 better

    --You just lost me --please rephrase.

    Not sure of your angle --I was replying to #52 Smooth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    I correct my last entry (#62). It was supposed to go to Smooth Operator. One suggestion, change your name to something that fits you better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    This is for quietoaktree. See if you can mention which one is the country, by far, the most involved in almost every armed (or not) conflict in the world? That would give you a real sense of warmongering. I could also cite many examples of double discourse in each step they take in foreign policy. One question for you. Where were the WMD in Irak?


Page 1 of 5


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.