September 01, 2006

The Year of the Family



Att the end of November, Vladimir Snegurkin, chief editor of the weekly paper, Friend of the House, phoned his special projects editor, Kolya Malakhov, and, in a joyful voice, asked him to drop in. Malakhov, immediately understanding that the chief editor had been visited by an idea, gave a deep sigh and went downstairs to the second floor.

Snegurkin, a former Komsomol bureaucrat, was a short, fat epicure, a connoisseur and devotee of Russian banyas and beach volleyball. He greeted Malakhov as if they were best friends, even offering him a rather revolting liqueur, which the paper received in barter from one of its advertisers. Malakhov waved off the shot glass with a look of disgust and steeled himself for the next special project.

“We have become too distant from the needs of our readers,” Snegurkin began. “Why, recently, when my filter gave out (the editor drove a Renault), I took a ride on the metro. Listen to me – such inspirational faces... so many newspapers! The conversations! And this in our times! When we, you could say, find it difficult to get by, what about these simple people...?” The chief waved his hands. “Look now. Look here. We need to spend a year following the lives of a single, simple family. I see it under the heading, ‘Year of the Family.’ A family from the dregs, you know. Well, so that they are not quite workers or drunkards, but more or less our audience: they have a dacha, a Zhiguli, there is some sort of babushka with recipes for every sort of marinade... After all, these are the sort of people who hold everything together, not us. They built this country.” (To this day, the chief often forgot himself, acting as if he were in a regional Party meeting.) “In short, go and find me such a family. So that we can do a story on them each month, with a photo spread.”


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