Yasha Levine at Wired tells the story of a Sergey Gorshkov, a Moscow blogger who has become a national sensation by publishing a steady stream of political smears — and perhaps half of his stories are zakazukha, bought and paid for by rival politicians. He says he’s in it for the money, and the money is good. Welcome to Russian journalism.
Kompromat.ru continues to attract readers, even though it’s hardly an objective news source. In Russia, nothing is. “It is a known fact that here, many newspaper articles are written to order,” Vladimir Semago, a former deputy in the country’s parliament, tells me. “Real reporting existed for a few years in the early ’90s; it stopped as soon as journalists started dying because of it.”
That’s why even Gorshkov’s harshest critics defend his right to publish. They also laud his decision not to edit items or remove them from his archive, no matter how much pressure he receives. Vladimir Pribylovsky, who runs anticompromat.ru, an anti-Gorshkov Web site, has been one of Gorshkov’s loudest detractors. Still, Pribylovsky says, in a country where most independent newspapers have been taken under Kremlin control and had their archives scrubbed of unfavorable coverage, a site containing an unedited slice of political activities is an extremely valuable resource. “I respect him and would be the first to complain if Gorshkov got shut down,” he says.
— Jonathan Werve