By Natalie Cioffari
On Oct. 6, the School of Communications and Media Arts, partnered with WSHU National Public Radio (NPR), welcomed former senior NPR correspondent Corey Flintoff. The McKinnis family of Fairfield also sponsored this event.
It was called “Resurgent Russia: the misinformation, disinformation, propaganda and outright lies that cloud America’s discussions about Russia.”
Professor Joe Alicastro’s CM-271 Television & Magazine Production I class had a live taping of the event for the student body.
Flintoff had lived in Russia for four years, covering a wide variety of topics for NPR like the Ukrainian revolution, the Malaysian Airlines’ Flight 17 and the Olympic sports doping scandal.
George Lombardi, the general manager of WSHU, opened and introduced the event while Ebong Udoma, a senior political reporter for NPR, was the moderator for Flintoff.
The conversation between Flintoff and Udoma consisted of subjects around President Putin, the upcoming election, and the various events he covered while he lived there. Questions were also open to the audience. After the event Spectrum was also able to interview Flintoff.
Q: During your presentation, you talked about being a journalist in one of those countries, like Russia, where they do not have NPR, and they value the opinion of the New York Times because that is how they are viewed. Being in a country as such, was there ever a time where you felt nervous or scared? There is that kind of fear from what we have seen in the past with the media.
A: You know, I actually did have a fear in Russia. That fear was that somehow if the Russian Government were really displeased with me for one reason or the other, they would plant incriminating material on my computer and then arrest me. You know, because one of the things that they’ve done with American diplomats is embarrass them in various ways. They would do these thins because they knew it would be sort of widely publicized. There are so many awful things that they can do. They can plant kiddie-porn on your computer for example. So that’s one thing that I was always afraid of, but I’ve never been physically afraid. NPR has always supported me a lot so that for instance if I’ve been kicked out of Russia. I actually had an editor who said to me its no shame to be kicked out when you’ve done a good thing, so I did have that kind of support.
Q: As an NPR radio correspondent all the way in Russia, were you actually sent out there for 4 years or did you want to stay there for 4 years?
A: I wanted to go. You know actually my first contract was for 3 years. [My wife Dianna] we were there for 3 years and we started to talk about what we were going to do next and we realized we weren’t done with Russia, we really felt that for one things was that it takes a long time to get up to speed on news stories there and once you start to have that knowledge I think it would be a waste to go back home and not to use it so I opted to stay for an extra year.
Q: So why did you come back if you were so drawn to it?
A: Well because I just turned 70. I decided It’s time to retire. The thing about being a foreign correspondent is that you are attached to your organization 24/7, and you’re on call all the time and there are times where it’s an enormous amount of work.
Q: Did you travel at all in Russia or were you pretty much involved with your work?
A: Culturally it’s an incredibly vibrant place. It still has all the sort of cultural activities left over from the Soviet period, like fabulous ballet, wonderful opera and great classical music. If you go to Moscow you’ll see that it looks on the surface like a modern European city. There are good restaurants, good cafes, one of the beauties of Moscow today is that they have wonderful public parks. They’re filled with people of all ages who are biking, they’re skate boarding, they’re doing all this kind of stuff. There’s a lot of music, buskers on the street and stuff like that. It’s a fun place to be.