Public Editor 8: Ukraine, “leniency” and how to dress like a Russian man

Putin speaks out on Ukraine. Source: Alexey Nikolsky / RIA Novosti

Putin speaks out on Ukraine. Source: Alexey Nikolsky / RIA Novosti

The crisis in Ukraine dominated the RBTH site and Facebook page this week, but did we contribute anything meaningful to the discussion? Also, readers called us to task over our choice of words and laughed over the fashion choices of Russian guys.

Not surprisingly, coverage of Ukraine dominated our website and discussion on our social media channels this week. More than any other subject we’ve covered, the unfolding situation in Ukraine and particularly in Crimea seemed to bring out the worst in our readers. Comments tended towards mudslinging and name calling rather than any substantive discussion of the issue.

But there has not been much intelligent debate over the future of Ukraine in general. The coverage of the situation seems to indicate that no one really knows what’s going on. We can report this perspective or that one, but the issues involved are so emotional and so high stakes that actual broad, balanced coverage has been hard to find.

We have been trying to give our readers a balance of news and background, but what we’re really missing is deep analysis. I hope this will appear in the coming days.

Readers called us to task this week for our Feb. 26 story on the sentencing of the eight protestors on trial for taking place in the May 2012 Bolotnaya Square protests. While one was sentenced but released for time served, seven of them will spend between two and four years behind bars. At issue was not so much our text, but the use of the word “lenient” to describe the sentences. In retrospect, this was, indeed, a poor choice of words. What the experts cited in our story were trying to make clear was that the sentences were not as bad as they had expected, but the language implied instead that the sentences were too light. This is not what we, nor or experts, meant. Thank you to all our readers who pointed this out. We will make every effort to be more careful with our language in the future.

And, for fun – in this week that culminates in International Women’s Day, one of our most popular online stories was “How to dress like a Russian man.” Fashion writer Inna Fedorova’s columns, which appear on Tuesdays, are often well read, but nearly 300 readers recommended this text on Facebook. In the text, Fedorova points out that while most people still think of Russian men either as the bumbling spies in long coats and fur hats of the Soviet era or the leather-jacketed thugs of the 1990s, actually Russian men today dress just like men everywhere else. Although my favorite comment on this story was from the Facebook fan who asked: “Dress like a Russian man? Why would anyone want to?” I’m not sure this fan read the text past the headline.

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