14:00 GMT19 February 2020
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    When Radio Sputnik contracted to broadcast in Kansas City, Missouri, the local National Public Radio station inveighed against the move. Sputnik News’ US bureau chief Mindia Gavasheli says the days of corporate media propagandists - and the smalltown journos who imitate them - are coming to an end as people get fed up with the narrative they push.

    Radio Sputnik has recently contracted with KCXL, a radio station in Kansas City, Missouri, to broadcast two, three-hour increments of Radio Sputnik on 1140 AM, 102.9 FM and 104.7 FM twice a day. It’s a fairly standard syndication arrangement, but to NPR journalist Chris Haxel, it’s an affront to the red-blooded Americans of the Great Plains.

    Haxel penned a January 25 article, which, as Sputnik reported, was very short on first-hand information about Radio Sputnik content and purpose. Haxel even declined to interview Gavasheli, the bureau chief of Sputnik’s Washington, DC, office, when Gavasheli insisted their conversation be recorded for clarity, instead contenting himself with nothing more than a statement from Sputnik’s Moscow press office and a host of heavy insinuation about being a “platform for Kremlin messaging.”

    Gavasheli told Radio Sputnik’s By Any Means Necessary on Friday that it’s a case of a local competitor trying to copycat corporate network propagandists to demonize real alternative media. 

    “Our direct competitors were irritated that we came” to town, Gavasheli told hosts Sean Blackmon and Jacquie Luqman. “Therefore, the NPR station in Kansas City dedicated quite some time to our broadcast. They wrote an article claiming we are a Russian propaganda machine.”

    “Funny enough, they didn’t call us before writing that article,” he said. Then, earlier this week, Gavasheli said he received a call from Haxel seeking an interview.

    “I said, ‘Sure, I’ll call you back.’ But when I called him back, I said, ‘Listen, I’d like to do this interview on the record, because we had some bad precedents when we were naive enough to openly speak with our colleagues - or people who call [themselves] our colleagues - then we saw how they completely distorted what we said, and we had no way of proving that our quotes were completely misrepresented.’ Therefore from now on … there’s this policy that we do that on the record, so there’s no misrepresentation, and there are no discrepancies. And I told this gentleman just that,” Gavasheli said.

    “I thought that was a very basic journalistic principle,” Gavasheli told Sputnik, noting that the New York Times had readily agreed to the same condition when they interviewed him just a day before Haxel’s call.

    “But in this case, Chris Haxel immediately told me, ‘Nope!’ And I’m like, ‘What do you mean no?’ He’s like, ‘I’m not authorized to talk to you,’ which was kind of funny, because you called me, you asked me for an interview; it’s me who has to seek authorization from my station or from my managers or from whoever. I’m not doing it, I’m just telling you, ‘Yes, let’s do it, with just one condition: let’s go on the record.’ But Chris Haxel didn’t want to go on the record, which makes me think: what kind of journalist he is?”

    Radio Sputnik Director of Communications Beverly Hunt subsequently reached out to KCUR’s news director, Maria Carter, to find out, Gavasheli said, noting that “of course, we didn’t receive a response - which, I think, answers that question.”

    “You would think that this guy, who was assigned to cover our station broadcasting in Kansas City, would listen to our programming. But during those few minutes that we spoke with him, he himself confessed that he heard very little of it,” Gavasheli said. “So how do you want to talk about our radio [station] without listening to it? It’s like, let’s discuss the taste of caviar without trying it; let’s talk about books without reading them; let’s write movie reviews without watching them.”

    However, that didn’t stop Haxel from running a second article on Thursday that focuses on KCXL owner Pete Schartel, in which the entirety of the evidence supporting the accusation of a Russian bent is - and we couldn’t make this up if we’d tried - documentaries on Russian culture and cuisine.

    Indeed, it was Schartel who informed Haxel of Radio Sputnik’s content, leading to a brief discussion of a Fault Lines episode about what kind of late-game tricks Hillary Clinton might attempt in the Democratic presidential primary race - the same example Haxel uses in his January 25 piece - and eventually Schartel saying of another cultural program, “They've got me wanting to visit Volgograd.”

    Gavasheli said of Haxel that the “end of his knowledge” is superficial analysis he hears on MSNBC. “That’s the problem: he’s not even good at what he’s doing, he just wants to be like those big guys at MSNBC or NPR in Washington. That’s why he copycats whatever they say. But again, he’s not capable of having a discussion or he’s not capable of going or arguing about things, knowing what he’s talking about. Because I said, ‘No, I absolutely want to talk to you on the record. I’m going to call you from our studio.’ I did, I left him a voicemail. He was so scared, he wouldn’t pick up his phone.”

    “But again, using this opportunity, I want to extend my invitation: hey guys, we are ready to talk to you. We are happy to have a discussion with you. If you want to invite us to your station, we will buy airplane tickets, we will come. There’s just one condition: it has to be live. It absolutely has to be live, because we don’t trust you for a second to be honest. We don’t trust you for a second to abide by the very journalist principles that you preach on the air, and that’s our experience with you,” Gavasheli said.

    “Why do you think we are seeing all this censorship online? Whether it’s Facebook, whether it’s YouTube, whether it’s Twitter, other platforms. When they deplatform independent media just like that, just because they can, and just because they know that more and more people are sick and tired of the same narrative they’re getting from TV screens,” the Sputnik editor said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s Fox or MSNBC or CNN: they play the game of fighting each other, but the reality is, they’re pushing the same narrative, essentially.”

    “It doesn’t matter whether you hate [US President Donald] Trump or love Trump, because the next guy who’s going to come after him is going to be just like him. He might be better-spoken, he might not be as vulgar, he might be younger and better-looking, but it doesn’t change the underlying policies that they are going to implement,” Gavasheli noted. 

    “There are more and more people who are waking up to this reality, but the problem is the mainstream media is still holding a grip on the majority of the population,” he noted. “We haven’t reached that point when most of the people are disgusted with the mainstream media; we are not there yet. We will get there, eventually, if nothing changes, but we are not there yet, and that’s why so-called journalists like Chris Haxel have some time to spit their propaganda. But it will come to an end, eventually.” 

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.


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