Elina in Russia 2012.jpgDr. Elina Erzikova knows most people are aware of censorship in Russia, but she wants to focus on how journalists deal with it and withstand the pressure.

Erzikova, an assistant professor of public relations, received an Emerging Scholar grant from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) to study censorship in Russia. She spent six weeks there this summer.

“The most shocking finding is that journalists thought that media in Russia have enough freedom, they just choose not to challenge the government and report the truth,” Erzikova said.
She said the regional governments subsidize many of the publications, so the journalists write for the government instead of the people.
“The function of journalists is being missed in this situation. They are acting as PR people for the government,” Erzikova said.
She said many of the people she interviewed felt it was easier to write favorable stories about the government, rather than fight censorship.

There are two ways journalists have found to deliver the truth to readers, she said. Some will use experts’ opinions to support their reporting. Others will share their findings, but also will allow the officials to have their say.
Erzikova began studying 50 journalists from a particular region in 2007. She is most interested in city and regional newspapers, not the national media.​

“I am always going back because I know the situation is always changing,” she said.
The preliminary report of her findings is complete, but she is now working on data reduction and analysis. She is using qualitative data analysis to interpret her research. She must write a paper and submit it to the AEJMC by Feb. 15, 2013.
“I can see my findings in a different light after my paper is written,” Erzikova said.
Her main mission is to tell the West something it doesn’t know about the Russian media.
“I want the West to understand how complicated Russia is,” she said. “There is still hope that Russia and the West will understand each other.”
Erzikova feels what she is doing is important because it is not just research. She feels she is helping journalists because it allows them to stop and think about what they are doing.
“Research is my life,” she said.