On March 24, the staff of the established Russian newspaper Vedomosti was introduced by its new co-owner, Konstantin Zyatkov, to its new editor-in-chief, Andrey Shmarov. In Russia’s early post-Soviet years, Shmarov was the science editor for Kommersant, and he later became the CEO of the online general interest outlet Snob.
Several Vedomosti employees spoke with the independent outlet Open Media about their meeting with Shmarov because they said it left them shocked, outraged, and tempted to leave their jobs. “This is somebody who doesn’t understand at all how decent media outlets operate,” said one staff member.
According to the same source, Shmarov told his new subordinates that Vedomosti’s recent purchasers, the tabloid publisher Zyatkov and the investor Alexey Golubovich, had expressed interest in editing certain articles themselves, a move Shmarov said was “nothing serious.”
Shmarov also said he was unfamiliar with Vedomosti’s basic rules of operation and did not read the paper himself. The business newspaper’s internal guidelines are well-known in Russian journalism and have served as the basis for outlets like RBC and Dozhd to create their own house rules, according to Open Media. However, Vedomosti’s new editor-in-chief said he did not read the guidelines because he could not find them on the newspaper’s website. He also told his employees that he stopped reading Vedomosti after encountering an article he didn’t like.
Among other points, the journalists who spoke with Open Media said their new boss openly criticized their newspaper’s opinion panelists and defended Harvey Weinstein. Shmarov admitted that he understands the concept of rape but not that of harassment, adding that he himself does not beat women. The editor assured his employees that there would be no limits on the topics his newspaper could address.
Vedomosti’s staff had been working from home prior to its meeting with Shmarov due to the coronavirus outbreak, but nearly every member of the newsroom came to work in person to hear from their new editor-in-chief. Some staff members said they were determined to remain at the paper in an attempt to preserve its quality.