Don’t Blame Journalists for Bad News About Russia (Op-ed)

What is it to be — articles on the reported mass torture of gay men by Chechen security forces, or a detailed examination of the quality of the mozzarella on pizza toppings?

We could, of course, write sentences like: “Russian security forces in St. Petersburg, where there is a vibrant café culture and some really nice streets for midnight strolls, have been accused of breaking the teeth of an anti-fascist activist in custody.” But, well, that would just be silly.

Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that it is not only Western journalists in Russia who focus on bad news. Reports on mass shootings, human rights abuses, etc. in the United States, for example, also tend to avoid caveats referencing, say, the wonders of Central Park.

But since New York, London and Paris are more familiar to Western readers than Moscow, Samara or Kaliningrad, no one is under the impression that gun violence, acid attacks or Islamic terrorism are their sole defining characteristics. Indeed, Russian reports on Western countries also generally focus on negative stories rather than, for instance, London’s art house cinemas, Indian restaurants and excellent second-hand vinyl shops.

Some advice: If you really want to know what life is like in a city you have never been to, pick up a travel guide book or two. After all, that is what they are for. And then read a newspaper to find out about all the other unpleasant stuff. Anyway, that’s enough from me. I’m off to the park to relax. (Did I mention, by the way, that Moscow has some really nice ones?)

Marc Bennets is a journalist and author of “Football Dynamo: Modern Russia and the People’s Games.” The views expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.