Diana L. Kachalova
Diana L. Kachalova (Saint Peteresburg), journalist and editor-in-chief, Novaya Gazeta.
I graduated from St. Petersburg State University Journalism faculty in 1982. At the end of Soviet era job opportunities were scarce, so my first work was as a freelance writer for several local publications.
In 1991, together with a group of journalists, I helped start the first post-Soviet independent daily newspaper Nevskoye Vremya (Nevsky Times). First as a reporter, and later as editor of the political department I began by covering the sessions of the Supreme Soviet in Moscow, which at that time was still where the most important decisions were made.
During the times of tremendous political instability in Russia and the former Soviet republics in the 1990s, I traveled to most of the so-called “hot spots”, reporting from South Ossetia, Georgia (Tbilisi), Nagorni Carabah, Vladikavkaz (covering the armed conflict between Nothern Osetia and Ingushetia), and later Chechnya.
In 1992 I married my American husband and lived with him and my 2 daughters in the United States from 1992 to 1996. During that period I was a regular contributor to National Public Radio on subjects relating to Russian politics, and I continued to write as a foreign correspondent for „Nevskoye Vremya“. I returned to Russia several times to cover the war in Chechnya.
In 1996 the family moved to Saint Petersburg, where I resumed my work at “Nevskoye Vremya” and became the Political Editor, where I remained until 2002, leaving when the political affiliations of the publishers began to seriously affect the editorial independence of the paper.
Shortly thereafter, I was offered the opportunity to help launch Moi Raion, a chain of community newspapers – a totally new concept in Russia – as Chief Editor. We began with 3 editions and soon were publishing 18 editions covering all districts of Saint Petersburg. In less than 3 years circulation grew from 80 000 to 450 000. That alone is something any editor could be proud of, but it’s far from being the whole story. Everything we accomplished, we did while maintaining a strict policy of balanced reporting and independence from the Russian state -financially, editorially, and politically.
In 2011, after 8 years with “MR”, I was offered the chief editorship of the Saint Petersburg edition of Novaya Gazeta. It was a tough decision, but events have unfolded that leave me no doubt it was the right one. In today’s Russia, media has become something in which the best journalists are ashamed to work. I believe Novaya Gazeta is one of the few exceptions.
We have a saying, “To get on the last boat to Istanbul” which comes from civil war times when people seeking to escape the Bolsheviks stormed the last ships leaving Sebastopol, grasping for their last chance of freedom. Sometimes my job feels like I caught that last boat. Despite significant obstacles, the Moscow and Petersburg bureaus continue doing serious investigative journalism, covering issues like the participation of Russian troops in Ukraine, and managing to remain one of the most respected and popular newspapers in the country.