The Book of the Week is “Of Spies and Spokesmen” by Nicholas Daniloff. This long memoir covers the author’s journalism career, which started in the late 1950’s at the London bureau of the newly formed wire service, United Press International.
Daniloff’s father was of Russian descent, and it was suggested to him that Russian expertise might be in demand in the future. He switched to the Moscow bureau, where he covered the Cold War. This blogger was a bit annoyed by the redundancy of two historical incidents recounted in this book: the U-2 Incident and Soviet leader Khrushchev’s ouster.
Daniloff wrote about various ethical issues of his profession and problems he encountered due to the stark cultural differences between the then-Soviet Union and the United States. The former’s media were entirely controlled by the government. In the early 1960’s, the two major press organizations were Izvestia and Pravda, meaning “news” and “truth.” This blogger has read elsewhere that the joke was that the News contained no truth, and the Truth contained no news. The author found this to be largely correct, as he witnessed a myriad of controversial incidents involving other journalists who had to be let go by their employers– the Soviet authorities accused them of injudicious language in their writings or relationships with certain Russians who were their news sources, or of being spies. “In those Cold War days, Soviet national newspapers seemed to delight in attacking Western correspondents and portraying them as hopeless drunks who behaved in boorish fashion.”
In the late 1960’s, the author became a White House correspondent. He then returned to the Soviet Union. Read the book to learn of: the oppressive environment under which citizens and expatriates suffered in the former Soviet Union, the ways the KGB tried to bait the author and the ordeal he underwent due to that environment, how Soviet-American relations changed through the decades of the latter half of the Twentieth Century, and the policies of the American government concerning source disclosure and specificity of new stories when officials supply information to journalists.