Sunday, October 13, 2013

Moscow Correspondent Travels US to Study American Media

Cassie Kelly 

Simon Kruse Rasmussen, Moscow foreign correspondent for Danish daily Berlingske, visited Athens Oct. 6th through the 10th as part of a fellowship with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Kruse has been covering politics in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic States and Central Asia for the past seven years. During his visit, Kruse spoke to classes about the current struggles of being a foreign correspondent and discussed ways to change the downward slope of the industry. 

Prior to visiting Athens, Kruse's journey has taken him through Washington D.C., New York and Kentucky. Beginning his travels in mid-Sept., Kruse said he has been given a greater sense of how the American journalism industry operates.  He has had the opportunity to meet with such media outlets as: the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post and Buzzfeed.

Kruse found Buzzfeed’s newsroom particularly interesting, because instead of cutting back on hiring correspondents, they have just hired their first foreign editor. He said that although the entertaining cat posts still remain, they are shifting their focus to investigative journalism.

“They are going into serious journalism, and have a very interesting business model,” Kruse said.
Aside from foreign correspondence, Kruse also has an interest in Environmental Journalism. While on leave from his position at the Berlingske, he has begun work on an energy project for the Daily, taking him to Chattanooga, Tennessee’s 23rd Annual Society of Environmental Journalists conference. His focus is the comparison of fracking and renewable energy procedures to responses found in Europe.

“Europe will probably fall in the footsteps of the US regarding fracking. But, there has been a lot of local opposition,” Kruse said.

With a notable interest in fracking and environmental journalism, the Scripps School of Journalism was a good fit for Kruse’s American tour, making it the first university he has visited in the States. He said he loves how the town is centered around the university, in contrast to many European institutions, and that he greatly enjoyed talking to students. Kruse also spoke with WOUB's Tom Hodson about his research and career as a foreign correspondent in Russia.

When speaking to classes about foreign reporting, he referenced a survey he conducted in 2012, illustrating heavy cutbacks in the industry. His study found that Denmark went from 60 foreign correspondents in 1998 to just 39 in 2012. Additionally, the number of Russian correspondents has dropped from five in 1998 to one in 2012— that one being Kruse. One concern he noted is that while he has observed media outlets hiring more freelance reporters, these journalists are unable to make a living.

“If they don’t have a regular contract or can only sell a few stories a month, we risk ending up with a mixed model,” Kruse explained. “The reporters end up writing books or tour guiding.”

Through his fellowship with CSIS, Kruse is trying to find solutions to this dilemma. He believes there is a lot of potential in networking and combining forces with other foreign reporters.
“We are not competitors, we are colleagues,” Kruse said.

Kruse said there is also a huge potential for foreign correspondence in social media where reporters can follow readers and get eyewitness accounts, enhancing their stories.

Kruse also shared his experience as a Danish reporter in Moscow. He said he recognizes having a unique advantage over Russian journalists covering politics, as he does not have to appease the strict Russian government system. He has seen that if Russian journalists find a critical story, they will not publish it because they risk being fired or their paper being shut down.

“They’re always walking the line. Its not censorship, its self-censorship,” Kruse said. “They know what is controversial so many of them will not publish.”

Social media in Russia, on the other hand, is very decentralized, and an instrument for sharing all ideas.
“It’s a really important tool because they cannot really stop it from spreading,” Kruse said, referring to the government.

Kruse’s visit was made possible through a partnership between CSIS and the Scripps School of Journalism, initiated by Scripps Professor Andy Alexander. Kruse’s talks on foreign correspondence will continue out west to North Dakota, Texas and California.

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