By: Dave Astor
Former Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev is writing a new world-affairs column for The New York Times Syndicate (NYTS).
The first installment of the monthly column is slated to be released later this week or early next week. It’s an introductory piece that invites readers from around the world to send questions. Subsequent pieces will be in Q&A form.
Gorbachev, 75, previously wrote a monthly essay column from 1992 to 1999 that originated in Italy’s La Stampa newspaper and was distributed by NYTS. The new feature is being done specifically for the syndicate, and has the wrinkle of reader involvement.
“It’s unique in that it offers newspaper readers around the world the opportunity to have a dialogue with one of the world’s most notable leaders,” NYTS Managing Editor Michael Oricchio said in a phone interview today with E&P.
Gorbachev, who headed the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, was known for bringing more openness to that nation. The 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner later founded the Moscow-based International Foundation for Socio-Economic and Political Studies (also called The Gorbachev Foundation).
In his soon-to-be-released first column, Gorbachev writes: “Something of a watershed in international relations occurred in recent months. Indeed, the past year may well have seen the end of an entire era in world affairs — the post-Cold War period of unilateralism and missed opportunities.”
How did Gorbachev’s return to NYTS come about? “We never fell out of touch,” replied Oricchio. “We felt that the time was right to bring back his kind of international perspective. With everything going on in the world, there’s no lack of subject matter.”
He added: “We often hear from U.S.-based pundits about various international topics. But it adds another layer to hear from someone who really takes a global point of view.”
Oricchio declined to discuss the new feature’s client list. According to a 1992 E&P article, Gorbachev’s former NYTS-distributed column ran in more than 100 newspapers, including The New York Times itself (which rarely uses syndicated features), The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Oregonian of Portland, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Gazette of Montreal, the Toronto Star, El Universal in Mexico City, and Asahi Shimbun in Japan.
At the time, then-New York Times/New York Times News Service columnist William Safire “welcomed” Gorbachev to the world of punditry in a Feb. 24, 1992, piece that was partly serious and partly humorous. “Write as if you were not plotting to get back in power,” advised Safire. “This will free up your thinking and enliven your copy.”