Former editor Lyudmila Telen pained by catastrophic audience drop for Radio Liberty's Russian website
BBG Watch Commentary
Ludmila Telen (Телень, Людмила Олеговна – Russian Wikipedia), an award-winning Russian journalist who was fired in September from Radio Liberty, said in an interview for OnlineTV.ru that Radio Liberty’s daily Russian website audience has declined from 100,000 to 40,000 and continues to fall. She attributed the drop in site visits to the mass dismissals of experienced web editors and journalists, the hiring of staff lacking multimedia and news reporting background, and new management policies which de-emphasize critical news coverage.
Telen said that she is pained by these developments after she and her fired team put a great deal of effort into making Radio Liberty’s Russian multimedia platform the second most cited news radio website after Ekho Moskvy FM station and have increased the number of site visitors multiple times.
In the interview, Telen mentions two letters of Russian human rights leaders addressed to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the U.S. Congress with an urgent request to intervene and reverse the decisions of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty American management.
Telen was interviewed for OnlineTV.ru by Sergei Korzun about her new job as the chief editor of Совершенно секретно (Top Secret) magazine which exposes abuses of power, crime and corruption. The first private, uncontrolled by the government, Soviet edition – the Top Secret bulletin was launched in 1989 by Russian writer and investigative journalist Yulian Semyonov.
Some of Telen’s former Radio Liberty colleagues will join her at the Top Secret magazine, while others — who call themselves Radio Liberty in Exile — have launched a new news website SvobodaNew.com. Telen told OnlineTV.ru that while her role at SvobodaNew.com is limited, she is trying to help her colleagues with their new project.
Telen, who has received several awards for her journalistic work and lectures part time on journalism and new media issues at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, was the chief editor of the Radio Liberty Russian website for three and a half years before being fired two months ago on orders of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) president Steven Korn along with her Internet team and dozens of other experienced journalists to make room for Masha Gessen, Korn’s choice to be the new director of the Russian Service, and her new team. Gessen and her team lost website visitors for their previous employer, Vokrug Sveta (Around the World) geographical magazine. Most of them lack multimedia experience.
But Korn assured members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), a U.S. federal agency in Washington which employs him, that Masha Gessen is an outstanding leader and also told them that the fired Radio Liberty journalists were resistant to change and lacked digital skills. The former Radio Liberty journalists said that Korn had mislead the BBG about their new media skills and a highly-visited and highly-cited multimedia platform which they had created.
What a great contrast between Lyudmila Telen’s thoughtful and concerned remarks and Masha Gessen’s accusations against independent journalists in Russia for slandering her and her dismissal of concerns about the future of Radio Liberty voiced by Russian human rights leaders, including Lyudmila Alexeeva.
This is how OnlineTv.ru described the interview with Lyudmila Telen:
Top Secret – a unique project in the history of Soviet-Russian journalism. At least two mysterious deaths are associated with people who have launched the project. ( BBG Watch: Yulian Semyonov may have been poisoned by the KGB because of his investigative journalism.)
Are you not scared to enter the “haunted house”? What does the future look like for print and online editions of the Top Secret? What happened to Radio Liberty and journalism in Russia?
These and other questions we ask the laureate of the Union of Journalists’ Golden Pen Award Lyudmila Telen, most recently the editor of Russian website of Radio Liberty and now takes over the position of the chief editor of Top Secret magazine.
View the full interview in Russia with Lyudmila Telen on OnlineTV.ru HERE.