Lessons from Censored Lands: Reporter, look around, it has happened before

From ProPublica: How Journalists Need to Begin Imagining the Unimaginable

Journalists should look at how this has played out in other countries…

I would look at the world and I would look for parallels.

When I was reporting on [Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor] Lieberman, a lot of people in Israel, this is 2010, they were saying, “Never mind, he’s on his way out because there’s this corruption scandal that is going to finally engulf and derail him.” Then it didn’t happen. There was the corruption scandal, the corruption was proven. It was the sort of thing that would have derailed any traditional Israeli politician and it didn’t stick to Lieberman.

It turns out that populist resentment politics can overtake a lot of that, possibly all of that, but also in the specifics, right? We have Lieberman, who turns out to be impervious to the kinds of things that would have damaged a different politician. That’s a lesson that would have been very well learned in the summer and fall as more and more details were coming out about Trump.

I was absolutely convinced that he was going to win. The reason why I was convinced he was going to win is because I’ve been reporting on these people, mostly Putin, but a little bit of Lieberman, a little bit of [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban. I’ve been seeing this happening everywhere.

The job for journalists now is to document changing norms…

We really have to figure out how to tell the truth and not just report the facts. Which is a pretty good sentence but not a great prescription.

I think that I would create new beats. The language beat, language watch.

Understand that normal is going to drift and shift and all sorts of things are about to happen and part of our job is to notice and document how it’s happening. We may not be able to influence the course of events, but our job is to at least be able to tell the story.”

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For more, read Gessen’s piece, Autocracy: Rules for Survival.


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