On the eve of the 15th anniversary of The Moscow Post, its editor-in-chief Alexey Kozlov shared the secrets of success and what can and cannot be written about in Russia today.
“When was the publication registered, do you remember that day and why was that name chosen?”
“I've known since I was a child that there should be such a newspaper, The Moscow Post because before, in the Soviet Union, almost everyone had a radio in the kitchen in the morning or in the afternoon, where the news was broadcast. They used to say, “As reported by the American New York Post,” “As reported by the Washington Post.” I always wondered why there wasn't such a newspaper as The Moscow Post.
“The publication was registered on December 11, 2007. We had a website ready by then, but as a matter of principle, we did not launch it, preferring to start working as a media outlet right away.
“Before I became a journalist, I used to work in, let's say, government institutions. In the mid and late 1990s people like me were not really needed in our country. It turned out that I didn't associate myself in any way with the civil service in the future and left it. I worked my way up from being a journalist who works, as they say, “on the ground” to becoming an editor-in-chief of various publications. My, if I may say so, “specification” was “I create turnkey media.”
“You said you created a media outlet as an accomplished journalist. Where did you get the courage to make your own media? After all, many, even very good journalists prefer to work as employees.”
“There was no goal to do anything extraordinary. I can say that I have always demanded that the publication be read from cover to cover.
“In our work, we must have the courage and confidence to take responsibility for our decisions. My wife and I had a conversation in which I confessed that I am actually a very insecure person. Because before I make a decision, I sometimes go through 350 versions of what could happen after. And then even in the civil service I was accustomed to the fact that if you don't make a decision, someone else will make it, including yourself.
“Why is The Moscow Post alive? Because I don't allow myself or anyone else to relax. As soon as monotony appears, I have to come up with something new. I ask quite seriously of myself, and I also ask seriously of my staff. I can raise my voice, but only God knows how strict I am to myself.”
“You said that you have been on many business trips during your career. Which of them do you remember and why?”
“There is one memory that sticks in my mind forever. Imagine the scene: late autumn, one of the regions not far from Moscow, driving with the driver along the highway there, abandoned villages alternating one after another. As an apotheosis of this whole picture there was another village with the fatal name ‘Coffinmen.’ And this poverty was not somewhere out there in the middle of nowhere, but close to Moscow, 200 kilometers away. It's scary, but then you understand why people are like this and why they have this mentality.”
“What positioning did the publication choose for itself initially and what has changed in this format over 15 years? Have you stayed true to yourself or have you added new aspects to your own credo?”
“Look, I know how to do a publication, and I know what it must be like, how to make it read from cover to cover. Your publication should be of interest to all segments of the population, including grandma Masha in Ryazan, a top manager, and officials from the presidential administration. I try as much as possible to make our journalists interesting and accessible to everyone. We have no political position except that we stand up for Russia's interests. I will never go against the interests of my country, and this is our basic political position. If you can call it a political stance at all, I believe it should be in the blood of every citizen of our country.”
“In today's world, such a position can cause questions and criticism from a number of parties. How do you feel about it?”
“Calmly. You see, liberals call us “dogs of the bloody regime,” officials who don't know what we do call us “liberals.” All this is normal.”
“The Moscow Post produces big, serious investigative journalism in a fairly short period of time. Some media take days or even weeks to produce similar publications. What makes it possible to produce quality journalism for such a long period of time, and what are the gold standards of the paper's investigations?”
“Investigative standards are generally accepted and there is no need to reinvent the wheel. And investigation is just an investigation, so you have to go through a kind of, roughly speaking, a quest. You have an event, but you don't know why it happened, and you have to figure it out. In relation to the event, having the fullness of information from the news, past events, the logic of the development of something before - you get a complete picture of what happened, restoring it through the chain in the investigation. In the end, you come out to the goal you want.”
“The Moscow Post works in a pretty specific segment, where on the one hand there's a lot of competition, but on the other hand there's not a lot of really good content. Do you maintain contacts with the heads and directors of other media, do you have a community or is it just you?”
“Of course we do. There are very good, warm relations, for example, with your publication wek.ru. As for competition, I would like to say that for me personally it does not exist. We have our own “clients” and our colleagues have their own readers. We swim in the same river, but there is always a place for all mass media no matter what kind of competition there is. Because development is inherent in any society and, therefore, new needs and interests are inherent. And if there are these, then there is someone who will serve them.”
“What do you think of the tendency toward the overflow and substitution of media by Telegram channels?”
“It's very simple in this respect. The medium is different in that it is responsible for every word it writes, for every punctuation mark it uses, including the wrong one. A Telegram channel is not responsible for anything. If they write there that “there's a bomb somewhere,” but the message turns out to be false, they won't get anything. For us, it's at least a 100,000-500,000 ruble fine at best.
“However, the media have a lot of advantages. For example, the prosecutor's office is obliged to investigate facts in media publications. I, as editor-in-chief, can draw the attention of the law enforcement agencies, saying guys, there is a violation of the law there, please, check – and they will check.”
“In 15 years, The Moscow Post has not been called anything but the most respected publications. How does it feel to realize after all this time that your publications were the ones that led to such significant events in the political landscape, and what do you think about the political media market in general?”
“You know, we just do our job. It would actually be strange if they stopped talking about us and somehow even unflattering, it would be strange if they stopped firing the officials we write about. I don't get the sense that 15 years is just the beginning of the road. It's adolescence.
“If we talk about pressure on the media, then for the most part it is due to the desire of officials or characters in our publications to use the state apparatus for their own purposes. There are many ways to put pressure on someone or, on the contrary, to say something in court in order to “get rid of” them.
“You see, the situation is those about whom we write are hardly happy about it. They put obstacles in our way, including through the courts, but we always find a way to act without breaking the law. And you can do media in Russia. The main thing is to follow the law. I can't guess what will happen to the market in the future, as I am superstitious in this respect. For myself, I know that I'm in the media for my interest, and the rest, as Bulgakov said: “They'll come and bring it themselves.”