“More than mere journalism is needed”

More from Peter Pomerantsev’s Ukrains’ka Pravda interview (his text, translated by me, is in blue). I think he cuts to the heart of the problem but I detest the idea of a “global BBC” financed by a group of governments. There are few things government are good at, and the BBC is far from perfect.

You are calling it Russian propaganda but I would call it an informational-psychological war. It does not aim to convince, as does classical propaganda; it aims to litter the information field.

To litter it with conspiracy theories, with fears, with irrational movements, to the point where it would be impossible to argue rationally on the future of Donbass or NATO’s role in Eastern Europe.

To soil Ukraine’s image in the West so people would say: “It’s totally unclear who’s right and who’s not: let the Slavs sort it out on their own.” In principle, Kremlin has succeeded in that. A sort of a terror attack on the infrastructure of reason.

To resist it, more than mere journalism is needed; journalism alone won’t make it. What’s been called journalism so far needs rebuilding. An education on the media is needed so people would understand they are being maniputlated.

Completely new media structures will have to be built, and we are seeing their embryos: StopFake in Ukraine, Bellingcat in England, where people come together by their own and try to find the truth and regain confidence.

For the objective of Russian propaganda is no one should trust anyone. Its message is: you don’t have to believe us but whatever the other side is saying is also propaganda and is also untrue so don’t believe anybody. Then the information field is dead, all that works is fear, panic and apathy.

We need a sort of a global BBC financed from public state budgets – not a journalistic by a fact-checking and investigative project.

Today’s financial model doesn’t work any more at newspapers and TV stations. There’s a helluva lot of these papers in the West but they aren’t doing journalism, they don’t need this boring search for truth. People used to think it’s OK without it – let it die. Who needs that news?

But the fact that information is used as a weapon and as a psychological tool to influence other countries has sobered up Western elites.

The West is starting to realize what kind of world it is without journalism. That reporters are needed like doctors and social workers and if so, the government should support them.

You probably realize how much they are being paid, the poor reporters running around in Donbass without war zone insurance. They are kids! Talented kids but it’s not serious.

It’s not a way to address the challenges posed by the Russian information-psychological war, nor the problem of China’s advance in Asia. They are pumping lots of money into that, so either the West will face a horrible future in which they win, or we need to invent a completely new model to replace what used to be called journalism.


  1. Brilliant post, absolutely brilliant. I will be speaking to the future journalists graduating from my university in two weeks, and this post is very helpful in articulating the message I want to bring to them.

    • Thank you very much. All credit goes to Peter Pomerantsev, of course, since I merely translated an extract from his interview with UP.

  2. Completely new media structures will have to be built

    Nah. If you want to see a proper flame war where information, mis-information, accusations, insults, sabotage, hissy-fits, threats, propaganda, and lies are the norm amongst plenty of factual and useful information, look no further than the Canon vs Nikon thread on any photography forum.

    The situation in Ukraine, insofar as having to sift through the bullshit to find the facts, is no different from millions of other controversial topics. All that is required is the time and patience to identify which sources are reliable (which comes with time), which are not (ditto), and an eye for consistency.

    “New media structures” sounds like the same statist solution which brought about such giant propaganda machines which Russia is operating as we speak.

    And this:

    That reporters are needed like doctors and social workers and if so, the government should support them.

    Government-supported journalists to counteract government propaganda? No doubt Pravda once believed it was counteracting Western propaganda, too.

    • As I say at the beginning, I don’t agree with Pomerantsev’s solutions because they involve governments. I don’t know what is to be done. I believe that good journalism is not extinct but it is being sidelined by tabloid-quality reporting. MailOnline is said to be the most visited English-language site in the world.

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