As Russia Direct celebrates its second anniversary this month, our editorial team answers some of your frequently asked questions — including about our efforts to ensure editorial balance, and about how we handle criticism from those who think we’re pushing propaganda from the Kremlin (which we’re not) or from the CIA (which we’re not).
The covers of Russia Direct's reports. Photo: Russia Direct
Question 1: What’s your editorial policy?
Our team strives to produce well-balanced content. We seek to engage a diverse array of experts, analysts and newsmakers from Russia and abroad in a discussion of the most pressing issues in the international arena.
One of our guiding principles is to showcase contrasting opinions —sometimes, extremely divergent ones — so our readers can reach their own conclusions.
We avoid imposing any agenda. We see cherry-picking as intellectual and journalistic sin. Russia Direct truly believes that a certain level of objectivity is possible, given enough effort and diligence.
Question 2: So how do you find balance?
Russia Direct aims for balance by bringing both Russian and foreign experts together and creating a space for them to debate issues, express views and develop arguments. We aim to provide a platform for dialogue. This approach incorporates multiple formats including debates, analytical articles, and opinions.
We publish contrasting viewpoints on controversial issues, and we visually direct our reader towards the opposing viewpoint by inserting a box in plain view that reads: “For a very different take on this issue, read [title].”
Question 3: Where does your funding come from?
Russia Direct is funded by advertising and sponsorship sales, as well as through financial support from Russia's official daily, Rossiyskaya Gazeta. However, this summer we are launching a paid subscription model and will begin to charge for analytical reports. Our website will remain free for all readers.
Also read: "Russia Direct to charge users for its reports"
To learn more about the Russia Direct paid subscription model launching this summer, see this FAQ.
Question 4: Since you’re funded by Russia’s official newspaper, Rossiyskaya Gazeta, do you follow their editorial policy?
No. The Russia Direct editorial team is independent from the editorial staff of Rossiyskaya Gazeta. We have different editorial guidelines, different goals and we target a different audience. What we have in common is that our Moscow offices are in the same building and, yes, we do receive funding from Rossiyskaya Gazeta.
Question 5: Are you just pushing Kremlin propaganda?
No, we’re not. We are passionate about Russia, but we don’t idealize it. We’re not out to promote only one side of the story, or push an agenda on our readers. We strive to create a platform for dialogue and debate between Russian and international analysts, businesspeople, and decision-makers. We aim to introduce Russian voices to English-speaking audiences, and to bring a nuanced understanding of Russia that we believe is all-too-often missing in Western press coverage.
Question 6: Are you guys actually a bunch of CIA agents?
Ironically, we get asked this question as frequently as the inverse (as in, “Aren’t you guys just a bunch of Kremlin shills?”). And, no, for the record, neither is true. We are not a CIA front. We have never received funding from, nor ever been in contact with, the CIA.
Question 7: Who’s your target audience?
Our target audience includes English-speaking analysts, politicians, academics, decision-makers, businessmen, and students with a deep interest in Russia and U.S.-Russia relations.
We also target what we’d call “cosmopolitans” — those who truly believe in global multipolarity, and who seek to understand Russia’s stance on certain issues or its relations with other states.
As of today, Russia Direct has almost reached 7,000 subscribers to our analytical reports. We’re proud to say our subscriber list includes prominent foreign politicians, decision-makers, experts, researchers and academics from the world’s top universities.
Question 8: What is the format of Russia Direct? Are you a think tank, or actually part of the media?
Russia Direct is something of a hybrid between a media outlet and a think tank. We have a website that is updated daily with analytical articles, op-eds, videos, quizzes, and the like. Our authors are mostly foreign affairs experts. We issue monthly and quarterly analytical reports written by academics and experts. In addition, we host round tables and panel discussions that bring together foreign and Russian pundits.
Importantly, however, we don’t consider ourselves to be a news publication as such — in the sense that we don’t cover the news itself, but rather provide analysis.
Question 9: What is your usual traffic?
Russia-direct.org has between 65,000 and 85,000 visitors per month. Our goal is to reach 100,000 visitors per month this year. In February, the Russia Direct website reached a major milestone: 1,000,000 page views.
Question 10: Have you ever faced censorship? Does the Kremlin influence your editorial policy?
No. The Kremlin doesn’t influence our editorial policy at all. Only Russia Direct editors decide what should be published and what should not.
Question 11: What kind of feedback do you get from your readers?
Feedback from our readers runs the gamut. Some readers thank us for being well-balanced, and for giving them an opportunity to understand the role of Russia in the international affairs. These readers tell us that they use our website and our reports in their research, and that they find our content valuable and robust.
We also face a wide range of accusations from our more skeptical readers, including attempts to discredit us and to dig into our funding.
For example, we’re frequently accused of either being a mouthpiece for the Kremlin (we’re not) or for the CIA (we’re not), a fifth column (we’re not) or “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” (we’re not). Our hope is that catching flak from all sides means that, actually, we’re on to something — and that we’re meeting our goal of maintaining a healthy balance and hosting a wide range of viewpoints.
Question 12: How do you specifically respond to the accusation of being Kremlin propaganda?
Skepticism about our independence simply spurs us on to be ever-more rigorous in pursuing a diverse array of opinions, including those that radically contradict the Kremlin’s position. In our view, the way to persuade doubters is to keep calm, and let the quality of our work stand as the best rebuttal against questions to our integrity.
If you see us as Kremlin propaganda, check out our website. Read through the different opinions. See for yourself. We believe our articles, and editorial standards, speak for themselves.
We’ve never shied away from covering controversial and pressing issues. Take a look what we’ve published on the downing of flight MH17, or the assassination of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov in Moscow.
Question 13: Who can submit articles to Russia Direct?
We are open to submissions from anyone with an expertise in foreign affairs, Russia, and U.S.-Russia relations. We welcome unsolicited submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org if they meet our editorial guidelines.
Questions 14: Could you please tell Mr. Putin that I disagree with him/admire him/want to buy a helicopter from him?
We do get these kinds of questions all the time. However, we have to disappoint our readers: None of our staff has ever been in touch with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and we can only recommend sending these requests to the president’s official website.