Earlier this week, Gregory Moore, an editor of Denver Post, gave a speech in the class. And there were lots of questions, surely. One of them went: “You became an editor at a very young age, how did it feel?”.
That astonished me. As far as I know, mr. Moore became an editor when he was well in his thirties. Undoubtedly, this is a young age. However, whether you consider it a very young age to become an editor depends on your point of view. For example, I became an editor when I was 23. And that wasn’t some amateur college newspaper — I became an editor of a widely respected Russian arts & culture magazine Afisha with a circulation of more than 200,000 copies at that point. And I mention this not to astound you with my exceptional talent and intellect. Because I wasn’t an exception. In fact, Afisha’s editor-in-chief whose team I joined as an editor was even younger than me — he was 21 at the time of his appointment and had to drop out of the university because of the job.
That happened in Moscow in 2007, and at that time the news about some student becoming an editor-in-chief of an influential cultural magazine provoked a bit of a fuss in the journalistic community (and I suppose my American readers should consider this incident pretty outrageous). But, first, he soon proved to be a really good editor-in-chief who managed to sort of relaunch the magazine and make it matter again. And, second, this kind of job appointments soon became a fairly common practice — and not only in our publishing house. For example, the editor-in-chief of lookatme.ru, one of the best Russian internet publications about creative industries, is now 21. The guy who preceded her recently succeeded me as Afisha’s editor-in-chief; he is 26. I could continue — and even if there aren’t so many examples of young editors-in-chief, there are lots of examples of editors who are in their 20s everywhere in Russia: newspapers, magazines, digital media, you name it.
Last week I read in the State of the News Media 2014 report about a 65-year-old guy who left the position of an executive editor of New York Times to become an editor-in-chief of a criminal news website. A thing like that is completely unimaginable in Russia; in fact, this tendency towards hiring young people has its side effects. Now, why is that? Well, as always, probably because of our Soviet past, when journalism was called journalism but more often than not was pure propaganda (what’s funny is that many people who did Soviet propaganda are now doing Putin’s propaganda; at least their experience came in handy). And when the time came, people had to built new publications, rules and policies from the scratch — and, surely enough, young people were more eager to do that. And, actually, still are more eager to practice proper, independent and open-minded journalism. So if you keep in mind that proper Russian journalism is basically 25 years old (and, unfortunately, is now struggling to survive in the face of new censorship), you won’t be shocked by the editors who are 25 years old.
Getting back to mr. Moore speech, at some point he also said that, despite all the complications contemporary journalism is going through, young people are now actually likely to land a job at, say, the Denver Post, because all the new technology that is indispensable for a journalist nowadays is a part of their identity. Well, at least in this respect Russia is ahead of the United States. Sometimes bad things have good consequences.