In a never-ending quest to find unbiased coverage of events in the world, concentrating on the crisis du jour: Ukraine/Russia, today I am looking at the Johnson’s Russia List. This list is a product of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at George Washington University in Washington, DC.
My attention was recently drawn to the list, as I am constantly looking for new sources of information about Russia and Ukraine. I subscribed to the list, hoping to find a mix of pro-Russian, pro-Ukrainian, pro-Western and pro-whoever sorts of articles, all somehow related to Russia. Since I have been studying Russia and the Soviet Union before that, for over 30 years, I ‘assume’ I have enough experience to make an informed judgement.
Here is the table of contents for today’s “Johnson’s Russia List”.
To make a comparison I used Google News search engine searching for Russia, to see the Google News results. Even adjusting for time and date differential, the results are quite different. I cut and pasted in MS Word to make the formats similar.
- Washington Post Finland feeling vulnerable amid Russian provocations
- Business Insider Russia Is Losing Up To $140 Billion Per Year From Western Sa…
- The Moscow Times Russia is set to lose about $40 billion (32 billion euros) per year due to Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, Finance Minister Anton …
- Reuters Russia puts losses from sanctions, cheaper oil at up to $1
- Financial Times China, Russia and the ‘Sinatra doctrine’
- RT Collective defense partnership: Russia and Abkhazia sign alliance
- CNN Russia accuses West of seeking regime change in Moscow
- Business Insider RussiaIs Losing The Currency Wars
- RT ‘Invest into space, not war’ –Russian cosmonaut urges Russia-US …
- The Moscow Times Spy Malware Deployed Against Russia by Unknown Nation, Report …
- Reuters Putin says Russia not isolated over Ukraine, blames West for frosty ties
- Reuters Russia suspends coal supplies to Ukraine: Ukraine energy minister
- Washington Post How the United States can counter the ambitions of Russia and China
- Bloomberg View Russia’s Project Moldova
- The Moscow Times Russia Cites Smuggling Concerns to Tighten Restrictions on …
- Pravda Russia tightens food embargo rules for Belarus and Kazakhstan
- RT iPhone ban during Russian military service claim false – Defense …
- ITAR-TASS Defense Ministry denies media reports on iPhone ban in the …
- Bloomberg Ukraine Shrugged Off as Russia ETF Swells to Record
- Businessweek Ruble Extends 6-Day Winning Streak on Oil: RussiaReality Check
- National Post Russia criticizes Canada for voting against its UN resolution to …
- Yahoo News Putin says he won’t be Russia’spresident for life
- CNBC Russia’s richest man on investing in Alibaba, Xiaomi
The results of the Google News search are certainly far less pro-Russian than Johnson’s Russia List. I have been noticing this trend for the past several days.
I am certain GWU and the IERES students are far more objective than this superficial study indicates. Perhaps the IERES students use a checklist, searching traditional Russian news sources first (never mind the bias from state-funded sources). Perhaps these stories were in chronological order, as of Saturday.
As for now, I will view the “Johnson’s Russia List” as biased. Not quite as badly as RT, RIA-Novosti (now Sputnik), ITAR-TASS and other Russian propaganda sites, but certainly leaning very favorably towards Russia.
When contacted for comment, David Johnson submitted: Zzzzzzz
I can only conclude the author, David Johnson, doesn’t care how they are portrayed. This leads to a few conclusions, all pro-Russian.
As for Mr. Johnson, there is a highly negative article about him here, which basically accused him of being a Russophile. Another much dated review is here. A fairly damning article by the New York Times is here, complete with quotes from then professor, now Ambassador Michael McFaul. Russian apologist Dr. Stephen Cohen gives a fairly glowing endorsement of David Johnson in the article, as well.
Of note is this interview with David Johnson, excerpted from a Moscow Times interview. In the interview Mr. Johnson states he would like to present more positive stories of Russia, which were difficult to find. The link to the original article does not work, but the URL indicates the interview occurred in 2007. This is before the Russian propaganda machine was pumped up with several hundred million dollars.
In “The media game: Putting on the Cold War goggles” by Ilaria Parogni, the author reviews the Johnson’s Russia List and concludes the list’s obvious bias towards Russia will harm the list, “the listserv is bound to become a casualty of the game”. The list has continued under various sponsors, so it is unstated whether the list may cease due to a lack of funding, a loss of interest or anti-Russian sentiment.
I previously reviewed the list at http://toinformistoinfluence.com/2014/10/28/popular-russia-listserv-said-to-be-increasingly-taking-the-view-from-moscow/, suggesting it for others with an interest in Russia.
I ran across another familiar name while researching this blog, Edward Lozansky, writing about Johnson’s Russia List for RT. Mr. Lozansky, for those of you who do not know the name, runs the Russia House in Washington DC. The initial sentence indicates how he feels about Mr. Johnson.
For those who have not heard the name, David Johnson is one of America’s most respected journalists.
This sentences confuses me. How is Mr. Johnson a journalist?
Bottom line at the bottom. David Johnson provides a valuable service, he consolidates articles, mostly pro-Russian, into one condensed newsletter. There is no analysis, only news articles and links to the original. His list has been cited in many scholarly articles, because in the past it was difficult to gain access to articles from Russian news sources.
Is Johnson’s Russia List biased? Yes, you betcha. Is it a bad thing? No, as long as one is aware of the bias before reading the articles, one can keep that perspective in mind and know the probable bias of the author and the probability that some of the facts may be invented or twisted, as is the norm in much Russian propaganda.