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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gazprom Names New Editor for Izvestia

Itar-TassVladimir Mamontov
Gazprom-Media, the new owner of Izvestia, said Tuesday that it had named a new editor of the newspaper "to suit shareholder needs."

Vladimir Mamontov, editor since 1998 of Komsomolskaya Pravda, the country's top-selling tabloid, was to take over on Wednesday from Vladimir Borodin.

Mamontov was chosen "to lead the newspaper to the next step of development," said Darya Litvina, spokeswoman for Gazprom-Media. "The newspaper needs to get into profit, or initially to start breaking even. For that, it will look to capture a bigger audience."

Media insiders said the change of editor was motivated more by politics than profits. Igor Yakovenko, who heads the Russian Journalists Union, said it was probably done with the 2007-08 elections in mind and reflected a Kremlin desire "to finish cleaning up the information field, which started with NTV."

"Izvestia was a clever conversationalist, but now it seems the course is set to make it just another tabloid. I doubt they'll succeed, though; that niche is already taken. Meanwhile, the niche for quality information and analysis publications could soon close," Interfax cited Yakovenko as saying on Tuesday.

Gazprom-Media, an arm of the state-controlled natural gas monopoly, which took over NTV television in 2001, bought a 50.2 percent stake in Izvestia in June from Prof-Media, a media holding in Vladimir Potanin's business empire. Prof-Media still owns Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Many had expected Gazprom-Media to name a new editor of Izvestia.

Borodin, then 26, was appointed in September 2004 after the abrupt departure of the previous editor, Raf Shakhirov, which was widely seen as connected to the newspaper's bold coverage of the events in Beslan. The Kremlin reportedly had pushed for Shakhirov's dismissal.

Borodin has overseen major changes to the newspaper, one of the country's largest and most respected. Earlier this year, Izvestia began printing in color and introduced a thick weekend section with lighter features aimed at attracting younger readers.

"Borodin has done a great job. Now the shareholders think that Mamontov will be a good manager to take the development further. No one is going to change anything sharply," Litvina said. "This is not a political decision."

Gazprom-Media general director Nikolai Senkevich, however, said in a statement issued Tuesday that "Izvestia is not going through the best of times.

"All efforts need to be consolidated to bring the newspaper to a new level of quality in terms of business and social influence," the statement said.

Shakhirov said he saw the change in editorship as a sign of the times.

"Today, people who can make compromises are not needed; it's the people who are completely loyal that are in demand. Soviet times are coming back," he said Tuesday on Ekho Moskvy radio.