Restaurant reviews not the only thing to end at the Moscow News

It is sad to see the Moscow News drop restaurant reviews. Perhaps the comprehensive dining guide, now a free standing full companion to the Moscow Times, competitor of the Moscow News is the reason. Generally however restaurant reviews are not a cash cow in and of themselves. Restaurants come and go and are notorious cheapskates when it comes to advertising. Money is make when the reviews are a circulation draw or monetized in other ways as the Moscow Times has proved successfully.

So we bid farewell, probably, to the Moscow News restaurant review section. We use the term probably because in announcing the end of the feature, the newspaper itself used it. Odd that a big announcement has that particular adverb attached, but hey, это Россия.

The real reason for discontinuing the feature is that the newspaper itself is in danger. As the food writer explained, “If life was like a restaurant, it would be like Hub Bar. It’s confusing. Surprising. It’s hard to find your way. There’s not enough food. It’s disappointing at times, yet somehow, the experience is too short. Thankfully, though, there’s plenty of alcohol, so if the company is good, you’re more or less set”

“Had I known this would be The Moscow News’ final restaurant review, I would have picked someplace outrageously, sickeningly expensive. (As the newspaper is part of RIA Novosti, which is in the process of liquidation, the money for dining on the company dime has run dry).”

As we mentioned already, restaurants are cheap and often unwilling to pay for a meal even for legitimate restaurant reviewers. That practice is almost universal and in some ways assures the independence of the published review. If you’ve ever sold advertising one of the first hard lessons is that rarely will restaurants provide your publication with a consistent income. Most just expect to be included in your guide and reviews but don’t dare ask them to be a part of paying the freight. In a world where anything longer than six months is a lifetime in the restaurant business, one can sort of understand. The quickest way to personal bankruptcy is to open a restaurant–another universal concept.

As for the RIA Novosti empire, this includes an institution known globally as the Voice of Russia radio, “the BBC of Russia” or the Russian version of the Voice of America. Earlier this month President Putin ordered the group to be dismantled and reorganized under direction of Dmitry Kiselev, a known history revisionist and certainly no friend to legitimate journalism.

New RIA Novosti boss Dmitry Kiselev.
New RIA Novosti boss Dmitry Kiselev.

As reported in the Economist, in a recent live broadcast from Kiev on Russian state television, a protester pushed his way onto camera.  As the Russian reporter, standing in the middle of Independence Square, the stage of the latest protest in Kiev, tried to describe the scene, the protester handed him a little statue, resembling an Oscar. “Pass this Oscar to the Russian Channel and to Dmitry Kiselev for the lies and nonsense you are telling people about Maidan.

Two weeks ago Mr. Kiselev met with the RIA staff and the tweets afterward were telling. My guess is that those brave enough to speak their minds about the changes knew that they were about to be shown the door anyway. One staff member tweeted that Kiselev came across as a “frothing rabid propagandist.” No surprise there, that is why he got the job.

Make no mistake, Dmitry Kiselev was chosen by Mr. Putin for his hardline views. When he was at Russia Channel One television, Kiseley made news by saying that if a homosexual died in a car accident, his or her heart should be buried or burned, but never given to someone as a transplant since the organs would be “unsuitable for extending the life of another.

As to the entire RIA Novosti family, a great news organization and the last true independent news gathering voice under Kremlin control, we’re sorry to see you go. It seems that restaurant reviews are not the only thing about to end at the Moscow News.