Earlier today, NPR’s David Folkenflik filed a report detailing GQ’s efforts to bury and hide a feature-length article critical of Vladimir Putin. Titled “Vladimir Putin’s Dark Rise to Power,” it’s the result of war journalist Scott Anderson’s research into several bombings that ended with hundreds of deaths in 1999 in Russia. It quotes an anonymous KGB official connecting Putin to the bombings.
“But instead of trumpeting his reporting,” Folkenflik reported. “GQ’s corporate owners went to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure no Russians will ever see it.”
This includes keeping the article off GQ’s website, neglecting to mention it on the cover, and, perhaps most shockingly, “no copies of the American edition of the magazine could be sent to Russia or shown in any country to Russian government officials, journalists or advertisers. Additionally, the piece could not be published in other Conde Nast magazines abroad, nor publicized in any way.”
Unfortunately for GQ, Gawker got wind of the story, and the media blog plans to publish a Russian translation version of the story on the web.
“We are working to get a Russian translation of the story posted here, even if it just means running the text through Google Translate,” wrote Gawker’s Gabriel Snyder. “Far better would be a Russian speaker who can help us translate Anderson’s story. You can either leave translations in comments or email me directly.”
I spoke to Gawker owner Nick Denton after the post hit the web. I first asked him whether there were any concerns that the blog would be violating GQ’s copyright by reprinting the piece.
“We’ll deal with that issue when we come to it,” Denton said. “It’s not as if we’re cutting into GQ’s Russian audience: Conde Nast wasn’t planning to publish the piece in Moscow.”
Why did he think Conde Nast was going to such great lengths to bury the story?
“I assume concern for the commercial prospects of their Russian titles,” he said. “And remember that the punishment of disobedient journalists can go beyond the impromptu tax audit. Paul Klebnikov of Forbes was killed.”
Gawker has never been one to back down when republishing controversial documents. When the Church of Scientology tried to get the media company to take down leaked video of Tom Cruise’s evangelizing several months ago, the media company refused.
“I’ve always thought that a site like Gawker — though we try to seek out corruption and hypocrisy in New York — would serve a clearer public purpose in Moscow, Beijing or Riyadh,” Denton said.