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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Journalists Are Learning to 'Just Say No'

In response to "Disguised Commercials Riddle Russian TV," April 16.


The reporters touched on a subject that has been a familiar practice in Russian journalism, bribes in exchange for publicity.

For the past three or four years, companies and so-called public relations specialists have hired and bribed journalists to write favorable stories about a business or create negative publicity about a competitor, thus giving the practices of public relations a misconception in this market. The most commonly asked question by someone unfamiliar with true public relations is: "What publications do you know and how much will is cost to submit a press release to each publication" (which is actually an informercial).

A few years ago as the news director of a Moscow radio station, an administrator asked me to announce the grand opening of a new discotheque in my newscast. This person was immediately informed about the difference between professional news and shoddy broadcasting. However the times are changing, slow as those changes may be.

Recently, a prominent Russian business newspaper fired a journalist that was bribed by a so-called PR company to submit a number of stories about a particular soft-drink product. Today, the ex-journalist is employed by that same public-relations company. It's a positive sign, that some television administrators are clamping down on their reporters by issuing fines. As the practice of manipulating the content of news continues, a "new breed" of Russian journalists with a sense of honor of the profession is appearing.

These reporters are learning to "just say no" to money for infomercials.

Some public relations companies, although few in number, are developing policies not to bribe journalists. In some cases, they weed out reporters possessing a quick hand in taking money. These PR companies are able to find a large number of responsible reporters to provide publicity, and the PR company attracts publicity for its client only when it presents a newsworthy theme.

Finally, does this sleazy action prove to be profitable? Placing an advertising story in a publication does not guarantee the reader will read the article. Many times, the reader will pass up anything that looks like an infomercial because the story is one-sided and often can be misleading. Then whose loss is it? Naturally, the company that thought that paying journalists was a guarantee in company/product awareness.

Larry Synclair

Synclair & Associates, Moscow

Public Relations Services/Consulting

Mistaken Identity

In response to "U.S. Expects Little Result at Summit in Moscow," April 13.


I was extremely disappointed to read your article on the press conference organized by the Russian-American Press and Information Center at which I spoke. Unfortunately, it misrepresents both me and my views.

I am neither a U.S. "official" nor a U.S. "negotiator," as identified by your reporter. I am a nonproliferation and arms control specialist at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The views I expressed were solely my own and not those of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the University of California, the Department of Energy, or any other organization. I was not introduced as a U.S. "official" or U.S. "negotiator." Furthermore, during the press conference I clearly stated that I was speaking in a purely personal capacity.

The message you attributed to me was also problematic. You quoted out of context my remarks to a pointed question, and implied a meaning that the quote as a whole does not support. In contrast to your effort to suggest that I was belittling the prospects of the nuclear safety summit, I clearly stated that it was an important event that would give a high-level political endorsement to the efforts to resolve the issues under discussion, and provide the climate and framework necessary to address them.

Had you noted my opening remarks, it should have been clear that in my view the issues under review, such as illicit trafficking in nuclear materials, are complex and difficult and will require constant vigilance and a long-term commitment. A summit that sets the stage for that type of effort is extremely important, and in my stated view cannot but be regarded as a success.

A final point, you garbled my message regarding the U.S. purchase of highly enriched uranium from Russia. I spoke of some difficulties in fully implementing the deal, not in getting the agreement.

Joseph Pilat