BE CURIOUS: OLGA LAZITSKI FOR YMS SUMMER SCHOOL

Olga Lazitski is an international journalist and media researcher born in the Far East, on the Russian – Chinese border. Received Russian Journalists Union Award, has a working experience in MIR Broadcasting Company, NTV Broadcasting Company, CNN, RBC-TV Business Channel, TV-2 Regional Broadcasting Company, etc.  

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This summer during the “Young Media Sharks” school, organised in collaboration with information portal pilseta24.lv and supported by the Embassy of the United States Riga Art Links People met with Olga Lazitski to ask about her experience working as a reporter and news editor at NTV Broadcasting Company (Russia), learn about her use of “media endarkenment” concept and ask for some advice for those, who are just planning to embark on a professional career in journalism.

Art Links People (ALP): Why did you choose to become a journalist?

Olga Lazitsi (OL): The portrait of a mustached smiling man looked at us from the blinking screen of an old Soviet manufactured TV set and seemed to fill the whole living room. This man on TV had spoken to us every weekday, but now he remained silent, as did everybody in our living room. My family was sitting on the floor (we did not have furniture at that time) starring at the image of famous Russian journalist Vlad Listyev, who was killed on March 2, 1995.

I will never forget that day. It was then that I promised myself I would become a good, honest, and independent journalist like Listyev. He is remembered by Russian citizens as having been a key force in bringing about the voice of democracy to the post-Soviet media. The knowledge of Listyev’s assassination did not scare me, but instead motivated me to better my country through journalism.

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ALP: Do you think being a journalist is empowering? Do you believe that your work can change the patterns of social thinking? 

OL: This might sound utopian, but for a journalist it is important to remain completely objective at all times. Gather as much information as possible, choose from multiple sources, check and re-check the information and form your own independent opinion. Working at the NTV Broadcasting Company and writing news scripts for the presenters, I always remain neutral, allowing the viewers to draw their own conclusions.

However, quite often society deliberately chooses to turn a journalist into an authority or a celebrity, believing his every word. Vlad Listyev, Leonid Parfenov, Walter Cronkite, Jon Stewart and Edward Murrow are just a few examples of famous journalists, who did change the way we think.
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ALP: Throughout your journalistic work you developed a concept of “media endarkenment”. Could you explain it?

OL: My recent research topic is “media endarkenment” – I coined this term to name the process counter to enlightenment. I define “media endarkenment” as a process of media influence (intended or unintended) by which both the intellectual level of the viewers and the number of informed citizens decrease. And that makes or keeps people apathetic, malleable, detached from reality, and easier to control.
“Media endarkenment” can also be described as a type or a preparatory step of propaganda and can be used as an umbrella term for the system of propaganda and manipulation methods connected to the goal of preventing people from becoming enlightened, or gaining knowledge.

ALP: Do you agree that „TV is the main tool to govern the country” (Dondurey, 2012)?
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OL: In my opinion there are 3 directions of media control. One of them is a governmental control like propaganda or censorship that enters the society through television. However TV can also be used as a race for ratings tools, when TV channels produce a carefully calculated selection of programs according to the viewers’ preferences. Also media moguls quite often have a huge impact in forming the public taste. They promote the culture of advertisements, entertaining TV shows and soap operas.

ALP: In one of your works you quote that „folks are controlled by pleasure” (Huxley, 1932). Would you agree that the idea of Paradise could exemplify the process of edarkenment at work? 

OL: In Paradise, similarly to a country, there is power/people relationship. God created the Garden of Eden as a perfect world, within which people were happy, carelesly accepting everything as the given. Here on Earth, we also quite often consume everything, that media offers without analysing and drawing our own conclusions.

The concept of “media endarkenment”, as well as the idea of Paradise both raise the question of peoples free will – they can choose to be endarkened and entertained, or strive for knowledge and enlightenment. In terms of democracy, this is their choice. People have a right to know as well as a right not to know. New U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry explained this logic on February 26, 2013, while talking to students in Berlin during his first official overseas trip in his new role:

In American you have a right to be stupid – if you want to be. And you have a right to be disconnected to somebody else if you want to be. And we tolerate it. We somehow make it through that. Now, I think that’s a virtue. I think that’s something worth fighting for (Huffington Post, 2013).

Kerry said this a day after he revealed his own gap in knowledge. He mangled the names of two former Soviet republics – now the independent countries of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan — creating the flub “Kyrzakhstan.” No wonder that Fox News, from the example in the Introduction, couldn’t distinguish between Athens and Moscow.

ALP: Do you think anyone can become a good journalist?

OL: For a journalist it is important to strive for enlightenment, seek for a better understanding of himself, society he lives in and the world in general. In my opinion, to become a good journalist you need to strive constantly for enlightenment. Also, you have to bear in mind, that journalism is not just a profession. It is a full time job, a hobby and a lifestyle. Wherever you go be curious, ask questions, analyse and make your own conclusions!

Text and Images: Art Links People / Published in: pilseta24.lv

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