AiF Publishing House to participate in the Eurasian Women’s Forum

AiF Publishing House to participate in the Eurasian Women’s Forum

AiF Publishing House to participate in the Eurasian Women’s Forum 

Marina Mishunkina on the heart–mind balance, reliable content in the media, on STEM disciplines and headstands… 

One of the sites of the September EAWF in St. Petersburg is the Information for Peace media forum. Its participants have no doubt: journalism needs meaningful changes. It is when the media becomes more positive and motivating, there will be hope for a change in the attitude towards the world around us, and then, possibly, within the society. Would it be possible without turning to live connection with a ‘female information resource’, which is innately life affirming and creative? This is what Marina Mishunkina, the First Deputy Director General of the Argumenty i Fakty Publishing House, reflects on before an open discussion at the EAWF. 

– Time calls the media for new formats that consider, let’s say, the audience’s mosaic thinking, for unconventional presentation of pictures and news to consumers who turn to print media fewer and further between. The print market is changing, evolving, and today we are looking for and trying new options and tools for the development of the Publishing House’s products. 

Therefore I am always looking for projects and solutions that would be most effective for our partners and, at the same time, unusual and relevant for the audience. 

– You are embellishing your brainchild AiF, trying to make it more practical and interesting for the reader… And what do you do what the mind tells one thing and the heart screams for another? 

– There is rarely a conflict between the soul, the heart and the mind, perhaps because of some inner balance. 

Of course, soul is essential for the project; it seems to me that all great projects are born from the heart. 

Of course, one may say that we are hooked onto the info sphere and draw ideas from there, there is truth in it, and I support this view. To the effect AiF was born: as the first social network, albeit ‘on paper’. Only the lazy would not turn to Q&A format nowadays, whereas then it was a know-how. The credit of the format rightfully belongs to the first editor of the newspaper Vladislav Starkov, and it seems to me that although the idea was plain to see, all three components: soul, heart and mind, prompted it to the great editor. 

– Understandably, the bad news is more striking and swiftly catches the attention of the audience. And yet your publications are mostly positive, therefore more meaningful. Why is that? 

– Let’s turn to Hippocrates: we are what we eat. That is what we consume. Information, just like human communication, is what we let in, and the positive/negative ratio depends, probably, on whether we are generally ready to let both in. A raft of adverse information, in social media, and the endless sea in which the consumer is drowning, it all affects only those not minding to feed off of it. It seems to me: before, there were more or less three to five newspapers, you read the peer news and know that the truth is somewhere in the middle. Now we read polarized news and blatant lies; a myriad of information sources, and it is impossible to read them all: the media space is immense. 

The surplus of the information channels builds up not exactly the immunity, but intelligibility. 

We filter sources through believable-unbelievable sieve, intuitively picking what fits our own model. For example, for me it is the information with a positive vibe. Life is better this way, enough of a seamy side, although at times you can’t ignore some tragic events. That is the way the world spins. 

Turning to the Publishing House products: when it comes digital media, it cannot be refined, cleansed from negativity; life itself throws it in daily. However, your traditional media (print – Ed.) contains more analysis and expert views. Moreover, our audience is very loyal: over 60% of our readers expect a balanced, introspective content. And if all of a sudden we start pouring out gory details or air dirty laundry like some tabloids, this will not sign on new readers, but most likely will shatter faith of those accustomed to the classics. Our children rarely dive into reading; they watch videos… 

– One of the key issues: the role of women in shaping the content for general consumption. Do feminine/masculine approach really differ in the modern media? 

– Now the media has a female face and a female audience. It is in high demand with advertisers, publishers’ business partners, because it can be easily monetized, a woman is a more active consumer. 

Look at the glamour industry: out of 10 glossy editions, only one will be male, the vast majority of media platforms are female. But who is behind this glossy façade? Women again. There are no male editors. 

Of course, the male factor is prevalent in general publications, business media, but the female audience rules. Whether we want it or not, a general director of a publishing house would still gravitate towards the expansion of a female component as it ultimately brings profit; after all we are not altruists here. Unless you are a manager in the public sector or receive a state grant support, you must keep the place humming, pay taxes… The house has encumbrances, so you have to feel the business and understand its trends. 

On top of that, today women have a strong intuitive reasoning; they think faster than logical men do. 

When the decisions are straightforward, the male factor works really well, however, when the circumstances warrant consideration of several business processes at once in less than five minutes, a woman is much more dexterous. And the media is very sensitive to this. 

Look at the press secretaries: all ‘male’ ministries and departments today prefer a female façade – the Investigative Committee, Foreign Ministry, there are many names. 

– One can tell that most likely you have an engineering education… It is quite common to meet media people with engineering or science background. Fitting into the big picture of media, they structure a special relationship with the audience and with the team. What brought you to the journalism? 

– A chance. I never dreamt of being a part of a major publishing house. My parents are engineers, and the choice of university was not really a choice. I graduated from the first university with a Civil Engineer’s diploma and could have been working with rockets, but this did not happen. One of the publishing houses was looking for a publishing editor; I was free from studies, and I was offered to give a newspaper and a recently launched website production a try. I liked it, and at first I sincerely believed that I would never come back to my technical education. Years later, I realize that the Theory of Strength of Materials really helps me with logical decisions, and the Analytical Mechanics comes handy for charts drafting. 

All boys company at the university with only two girls in the batch, tempered and taught to take the heat, and I would even say that the male environment to some extent reinforced my femininity; it is an amazing ‘mutually pollinating’ system. 

I intuitively can assign people within a team quite accurately so that they could develop and grow, which benefits the employees tremendously: they clearly see goals; these goals are attainable, because individuals are in the right position. And, of course, this also benefits the stakeholders as an accurate line-up within the company yields the maximum commercial effect. 

However, engineering was just the beginning; then there were profession specific courses such as management and marketing. Now I am a businesswoman, but I also worked as an editor back in the day. I am quite familiar with printed word and copywriting. And now, when a savvy client needs an interesting project, the combination of my ‘technical’ background with creativity and brainpower affords me to generate innovative multimedia projects for different venues and subjects. 

– Women and mathematics. Do you really think girls today need STEM disciplines when they already have calculators? The forum will discuss the issue of girls delving into mathematics to ensure future employment… 

– I am a fan of mathematics. If you are able to solve a one-banana problem and the most complex mathematical problems, this extrapolates to an ease of finding solutions and building algorithms in real life. You have a mathematical shield to guard you. 

– A blogger, an individual, a real competitor who is able to cover the better half of the target audience and make real money off of it. They stand side by side with the media today. How is this a competitive environment? 

– Bloggers are some kind of alternative source of information for a new young audience, but the real competition with the major media is out of question for now. Yes, bloggers do not need a huge staff of journalists, technologists, lawyers, and accountants. They are an information resource with an audience that sometimes surpasses the readers’ pool of large publishing houses. But we realize that the absence of all of the above makes the blogosphere a channel with no guarantees for the reliability of the information provided. Nevertheless, while media is chewing over the ways to cash in on their own audience, bloggers have learned to monetize their knowledge about technical innovations, iPhones, cars, etc. And looking at the ‘order of ranks’ of foreign and national bloggers, there are many women in the top ten: they are stay at home moms or early retirees, and they use Internet as a source of the income. It is no secret that a blogger with 4–5 million subscribers can earn up to 3–5 million dollars per year… Remember, a presidential candidate Pavel Grudinin made a bet with one of the famous bloggers and shaved off his moustache. Social media would have levelled him to the ground if he did not. He certainly was not ready for this, but in the end he wanted to avoid a public conflict. I do not know if he would have shaved off his moustache, having made a bet with one of the journalists of the traditional media. Already social networks are working tools for government officials, journalists, media professionals, and we are lucky if people with a sense of humour and intellect use it. Bloggers are less immune to fake news, unlike traditional media with special verification departments. 

– What are your core values?

– Major recent developments adjusted, ‘polished’ my firm views. The family never came first, although I really love my men: my husband and a 20-year old son. They are the air that I breathe. However all my life I have put my work and ambitions up on a pedestal… Now the attitude has altered significantly: perhaps family and friends rightfully took over the top of my Olympus. 

They say why do you invest in staff, in people. I love people and truly believe in good in every person. This is my life value. And then I wonder, what’s next, how can I do better. If you think about this, you are half way there. 

I also love and can do a headstand. As it turns out, it is very easy: you need to position your arms in a classic triangle, gently place your head in it and straightening your legs, put them up. Possibly the influx of blood to the brain and a strong surge of oxygen do their job. 

Sport also gives certain advantages in work, in everyday life, in communication, because at some point you can always ‘turn the picture upside down’. 

Every morning for the last two years I have been exercising for half an hour, jogging in the countryside; yoga came shortly after headstands, not classical, but rather amateur. I try to get ready for each new day, to wake up my mind, even if I am upset and tired, I still get into the swing. 

– You are an aware and self-reflecting person. The forum will bring together women from around the world. What is in EAWF for you? 

– Confidence that women are able to form a community, through joined efforts of which we will be able to improve the media: with the right word, correct framing to steer media towards positivity for the sake of peacekeeping. I am against purified media, fake news and information distortion. Paraphrasing Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, you are responsible for your audience. I am looking forward to learning something new, getting an energy boost and meeting new friends at the forum. 

Tina Stankevich, Eurasian Women’s Community News Agency