Press release, Kirkenes, Murmansk, Luleå, Oulu, September 29th 2015
On Monday 28th of September, Thomas Nilsen was fired from his position as chief editor of the online news site BarentsObserver by the owners of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, the three Northern Norwegian county administrations.
STATEMENT FROM BARENTS PRESS INTERNATIONAL, CONCERNING THE RESTRICTION OF BARENTSOBSERVERS' EDITORIAL FREEDOM
Genghis Khan’s ninth eye - Karelia in the lens of central TV channels
Reporting on events journalists make a print of real life in articles, reportages, television programs. And what prints do we leave in this reality, in the minds of those with whom we talk and of whom write? Director of the Karelian State Local History Museum Mikhail Goldenberg shares his "impressions".
The profession of a journalist is interesting. All the time life sends them a challenge. They have to be in the know of many things. Editor of the pre-war Soviet journal "Ogonyok" Mikhail Koltsov told his colleagues: "The journalist has been preparing to report all over his life and one time more". "Whole life" here implies the overall development of a journalist, his intelligence, speech habits, reactivity of the mind... Here I talk about "one time more". Today it is bad, very problematic and sometimes simply unbearable... I know what I 'm talking about. My functionality requires regular dialogue with masters of the pen, I 'm sorry,of the keyboards. In this article the focus is set at my contacts with journalists from outside of Karelia.
Summer tourist season is coming. Soon feathered journalistic pens will fly to Karelia to create herу a brood of films, stories, articles. The technology of the raid often begins with a letter to the administration of the republican government. They rely on the heading "From Moscow" or "From Saint-Petersburg". The resolution "To support" is often used as an indulgence from the payment for shooting funds or interiors of the museum. However the program about local history brings a lot of money to the private Moscow TV company whereas the museum gets nothing.
We should have a special talk about the scientific character of the visitors’ ideas. Last summer a group from NTV appeared in the museum with a wide range of "research" topics: "Arrange a meeting with the yeti", "Why do people sometimes disappear in Karelian villages?", "What about contacts with representatives of the other worlds", "Petroglyphs are a product of aliens".
I personally tried to explain them only the second point and linked the temporary disappearance of people in the villages to the day of salary or pension. With the other issues I sent young, very athletic, but wildly uneducated NTVers to the Karelian Scientific Centre. They were able to engage several scientists in the shooting. With art installation, distortion, pulling phrases out of the context they managed to involve some people with scientific degrees into a charlatan TV fake. On February 2011, "the masterpiece" called "Mysterious Russia. Karelia" was shown in prime-time to the country.
I was sent to a knockout with the first phrase of the movie: "Karelia is located on the Kola Peninsula, the basis of which is the magic shungit (local kind of stone – editor)". And then a solid hour of madness with a claim to be a sensation. Meeting with the yeti was about to take place. A fresh "footprint "was found - a small hole in the grass” (one - obviously, he is one-legged). Besides scientists who had been tricked the main commentators in the film were the son of a famous archaeologist proclaimed in the movie as "a young scientists" (actually he is an administrator at a grocery store), a teacher speaking about the healing properties of the mountain Vottovaara. The villagers didn't say anything, they were shown from afar but all the time there was the refrain: "Local people say... They state..." The Karelian branch of the Russian geographical society responded to this "masterpiece" with a letter to the Media-union and NTV broadcasting company where such "pearls" are quoted on several sheets.
Last summer the museum was visited by a well-known “philosopher-ophthalmologist”. On two jeeps with a group of experts and operators he was looking in Karelia for the ninth eye of Cinguiskhan. No one has yet seen the film.
In the Karelian state museum of local history we still remember the film group from Moscow who insisted on showing them the Sampo mill from the funds of the museum: "We really ask you... We understand that it‘s a valuable exhibit... Well, how much will it cost? We have made a long way here! Without Sampo we will not leave!" The museum workers were fighting off: "Don't you understand that this is a myth? And who told you that it is a mill? It really grinded salt, flour and money, but no one has ever seen what it looks like. There are dozens kinds of picturing it..."
In the end an old coffee grinder was presented to the film group. "Very well. And you were saying... Couldn’t you do it at once? Great!" - said the happy people from the capital. The museum workers crossed – it’s fine the guests haven’t demanded Ilmarinen’s sword...
A few years ago TV Channel 1 megastar Michael Shirvindt appeared. No script, no plan. We created all this right in my office. "Shoot Marcial Waters, the first resort in Russia", - was my piece of advise. A film was shot. However the peasant Ivan Reboyev who discovered the well turned in the film to Ivan Ryabov. There were other mistakes as well.
It was interesting to learn the technology of shooting the program "Walks with the Naturalist" with Pavel Lyubimtsev. He arrived to Karelia being completely ignorant about the historical and cultural peculiarities of the region. He asked to supply him with a scientist to whispered the story to the naturalist. And Lyubimtsev showed that brilliant knowledge directly to the camera with his perfectly delivered voice. He turned out to be a professor in the theatrical university who teaches scenic speech.
This spring TV people from Petersburg came: "We do want to make a film about Vepsan magicians in Sheltozero". I asked: "Are you not interested in the Vepsan culture?" the answer was:"And doesn’t Sheltozero's museum want advertisement?"
Journalists come also from abroad. Often from Finland, Sweden, Norway. A group has always got a scientific consultant; they pay for all according to the established price list.
Of course, the destiny gives sometimes thoughtful journalists from the capital, by the way, often from newspapers. And the problem of the relationship of culture, education, science with the local journalistic community requires a separate discussion.
director of the Karelian State Local History Museum
Translated by Tatiana Polkova