Thursday, February 28, 2008

Stepping back

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while may remember references to my good friend and colleague, Alexander Belokurov, editor-in-chief of our sister newspaper in Siberia, Kuznetski Rabochi. I first met him in 1996, when O-R publisher Tom Northrop and I traveled there to lend advice and support to the former communist party newspaper that had been taken over by Belokurov and a clutch of young, liberal-minded journalists. They were having trouble making enough money to keep the newspaper afloat.

I like to think our assistance over the following five years had something to do with KR's survival and growth as a powerful independent voice in Russia. But it was Belokurov who did all the heavy lifting, fighting corrupt businessmen with one hand and city and state government with the other. He fought against official corruption and against greed, and as a result was dragged into court constantly to defend himself and his newspaper.

He had not been a happy man for the past several years. And he grew so tired of the fight that he threw in the towel a few months ago and quit the paper. It was a shock to his fellow journalists who could not imagine working under another editor. We all worried about his mental state.

But Sasha Belokurov has emerged a happy man. He has started a new newspaper, one that has absolutely nothing to do with politics. Here's what he wrote a week or so ago:
"Dear Park!
We've got the 7th issue of our newspaper "The seventh day." Now I can say for sure: everything I planned has turned out well.
The newspaper is distributed for free. Half of it is advertisement, and the other half - journalistic materials.
People ask for a subscription to a free newspaper!
Also we have started its distribution at the nearest towns.
And the latest news - we joined the national printing service and have confirmed the number of our printing, which is 100 thousand copies.
Greetings to everyone at the "Observer-Reporter."

From what I understand from my other friends in Novokuznetsk, the content of his paper involves philosophy, humor and art. We wish him the best, and thank him for the battles he fought.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Best wishes to Sasha from these parts, as well!

I had the opportunity to be part of his family (and sleep on his living room couch) for 10 days during the O-R/W&J May 1999 exchange visit to Novokuznetsk -- and still recall it fondly.

Thanks for the news, G.O.E.