Ben Smith, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief
“This Is What It Was Like Learning To Report Before Fake News Was The Biggest Problem In The World
As a young reporter in Eastern Europe in 2001, I expected to witness the “end of history” and the flowering of democracy. That was just one of the mistakes I made.
I recognized myself in Suzy Hansen’s recent book on the delusions of our generation of Americans abroad, Notes on a Foreign Country.
“I would never have admitted it, or thought to say it, but looking back, I know that deep in my consciousness I thought that America was at the end of some evolutionary spectrum of civilization, and everyone else was trying to catch up,” she wrote.
There’s an axiom in reporting — crystallized by Janet Malcolm in The Journalist and the Murderer — that at the core of journalism is betrayal. I thought that’s what I’d done to Shydlovski. And I’ve thought a lot about the balance of responsibility to your sources and to your readers.
I had left Belarus on an overnight train the day after the election, and crossed the Ukrainian border on the morning of Sept. 11, as clear a day in that region as it was in New York. That afternoon, I sat in a Kiev newsroom watching my past assumptions about American power crumble, and walked outside to watch Ukrainians lining up at exchange bureaus to turn in their dollars. The story moved on.
Kozak, though, stuck around; he’s still working on the Lukashenko project from his desk in Foggy Bottom. And his own experience, he said, had taught him not to trust confident judgments about the future of an authoritarian.
“You get that blithe assumption that the status quo will always remain — or that this guy is so bad he’s got to go,” he said. “Neither are necessarily true, nor necessarily false.”
And Kozak is right: The main lesson I should have learned was about making predictions, about trusting the confidence of my American culture and of official sources on both sides, of imagining I knew more than I did. Even in the era of Steven Spielberg’s The Post and of a kind of glorification of the work of journalists, good reporting doesn’t offer easy lessons. It’s an uncertain business, and a necessarily anarchic one. Now I’m glad I wrote Shydlovski’s story, not despite the fact that I didn’t know where it would lead, but because of it.”
The photo illustration shows the toll that layoffs and constant turnover have taken on the staff in the five years since. […] At least two dozen more journalists will be leaving The Post because of layoffs.
“…raise(s) the question: Does this cut, which follows so many in recent years that our ranks have shriveled from more than 250 to fewer than 100 today, represent the beginning of the end for the Voice of the Rocky Mountain Empire?
The cuts, backed by our owner, the New York City hedge fund Alden Global Capital, also are a mystery, if you look at them from the point of view of those of us intent on running a serious news operation befitting the city that bears our name. Media experts locally and nationally question why our future looks so bleak, as many newspapers still enjoy double-digit profits and our management reported solid profits as recently as last year.
We call for action. Consider this editorial and this Sunday’s Perspective offerings a plea to Alden — owner of Digital First Media, one of the largest newspaper chains in the country — to rethink its business strategy across all its newspaper holdings.Consider this also a signal to our community and civic leaders that they ought to demand better. Denver deserves a newspaper owner who supports its newsroom. If Alden isn’t willing to do good journalism here, it should sell The Post to owners who will.