By: James Brodell
United States-Style press club in Moscow p.
A UNITED STATES-Style press club in Moscow has signed up 460 members, its director said, even though completion of $1 million in facilities still is at least a month away.
The International Press Center & Club, modeled after the National Press Club in Washington, also has become a key forum where Russian and former Soviet newsmakers are quizzed by Russian and non-Russian newspeople.
In addition to newspeople, members range from former Soviet President-Mikhail Gorbachev to a group of 28 journalism students from Moscow State University. Others are embassy personnel and business and public relation people working in Russia.
Harry Bodaan, president of the press center and club, said the organization’s bylaws require that the majority of members by newspeople. More than 100 members are Russian journalists, despite a currency crisis that makes the $200 annual membership fee far above the capability of most local journalists who join for $800 to designate a gift membership for a Russian journalist.
Bodaan was general manager of Washington’s National Press Club for nearly 11 years and he is continuing its tradition of bringing newsmakers before the membership, sometimes with as many as three events a week.
U.S. visitors have included Rep. Richard Gephardt of Missouri, the House majority leader, and Rep. Robert Michel of Illinois, the minority leader.
In addition to Gorbachev, who spoke March 5, Russians and speakers from other parts of the Commonwealth of Independent States have covered a full range from vice premiers to legislators. Boris Fyodorov, Russian finance minister and deputy prime minister, was grilled about he political and economic situation.
The newsmakers sessions result in extensive coverage in the local and foreign press.
The press center’s mission statement calls upon it to foster excellence in journalism and the expansion of a free and open press in Russia and the other C.I.S. nations. Two U.S. firms each have given grants of $100,000 to help launch the facility.
Bodaan said he sees the organization as far more than a place for newspeople to lunch and drink. The center’s permanent facilities in the swank-by Russian standards-Slavjanskaya Hotel will receive nine wire services and include some 2,000 to 3,000 reference works, a full-time library with a staff of six, some 30 computer stations and conference rooms as well as the traditional restaurant and bar.
The organization is continuing to seek grants to pay for the facility. which is located in a former nightclub on the hotel’s first floor. It will open in August or September, Bodaan said.
Work is being done at the same hotel in temporary offices. Luncheons and other events also have been held at the hotel, which is on the west bank of the Moscow River less than four miles from the Kremlin.
Vladimir Draitser, general director of the hotel, said the press center fits well with the image that Radisson-managed facility is trying to convey of a fully operational hotel and business center.
Bodaan noted that Moscow journalism has boomed in the last two years and the city now has about 70 publications that can be generally described as dailies as well as 230 or so that are non-dailies. Of the dailies, he said, about 36 are significantly successful.
Chris Dobbins, executive assistant to Bodaan, said the press center is considering expanding its polling facilities, perhaps involving Russian journalism students in the process. Precision journalism using social science research techniques to develop significant news stories is still in its infancy in Russia.