|Photo by Valery Levchenko|
Monday morning in the office was proceeding as usual. Until I noticed a tweet from a local media outlet mentioning my employer RIA Novosti, state-owned multimedia news publishing house, in a critical context. The tweet's link pointed to the Kremlin's official website where a presidential decree called On Measures to Raise Efficiency in the Work of State Mass Media Outlets (annotation in English) had been published at 10:50 a.m. Moscow time.
From the decree – which I had to read through several times to fully grasp the scope of the imminent changes - I learned my employer was to be “liquidated” while a successor, an international propaganda house called Rossiya Segodnya (literally, Russia Today) was to be created under a new CEO. With additional expertise and assets coming from Voice of Russia, also to be liquidated.
It seems, the management and employees all learned the dramatic news from external media sources. Our first take on the story came out on the newswire some 40 minutes after the decree's publication. Without any comment from Svetlana Mironyuk, the CEO/Editor in Chief. The competition was ahead by 20 minutes or so. Both figures are quite big judging by news agency standards. English language story was published at 1:25 p.m., again with no comments from RIA's management.
A town hall meeting for some 300 managers was held at 4:15 p.m in the largest room of our press center. I have never seen a staff meeting so intense and yet with so much sense of solidarity. We listened, held our breath, applauded and asked questions. Thanks to a video posted online, some of Svetlana's quotes went public in the following couple of days.
RIA Novosti (since 1991) and its predecessors, publishing house APN (1961-1990) and Soviet Information Bureau (1941-1960), shared a rich history spanning over 70 years of multilingual information distribution in times of war, cold war and peace. Previous reorganizations involved complex schemes and frequent change of top managers. Svetlana has been the longest standing CEO (since 2003). It took her ten years to turn RIA Novosti into Russia's leading multimedia news publishing organization.
I am positive that in few years or even months the new organization would be considered a de facto successor of the Novosti family. The coming three months will no doubt be the most difficult because the transition phase overlaps with coverage of the Olympic games in Sochi and start of a new budget year. But I will surely miss the hard-earned news agency status (and nucleus) of the original company.