Biggest News Agencies TASS Part 2

About one of the biggest news organizations TASS of Russia, formerly the Soviet Union, who is in control, major scoops and trivia.



Name of Agency and Country: TASS (Telegrafnoie Agenstvo Sovietskavo Soiuza), U.S.S.R.

Who's behind It: Although TASS claims to have become an "independent" and "self-sustaining" entity in 1970, it retains the status of a government ministry and its activities are supervised by the Political Bureau. Its current general director is L. M. Zamyatin and its headquarters are at 10 Tverstoy Boulevard, Moscow. Since Soviet citizens are avid newspaper readers and since TASS is widely quoted in thousands of publications abroad, the agency has become one of the most influential in the world.

Biggest Beats: TASS does not operate on the "deadline every minute" psychology of competitive American agencies. It is not noted for "faster" or "headline-making" stories. The contents of each day's file are thought out in advance by men directly responsible to the Soviet bureaucracy. Political effect is considered more important than sensation or speed. TASS coverage of space exploration has long been first-rate, and the agency provided a much-needed "other side" to coverage of the Vietnam War for readers skeptical about the official American position.

Quirks and Prejudices: A study of a day's typical English-language file and an interview with a typical TASS correspondent (in this case Vitaly Chukseev, who runs the San Francisco bureau) would lead a careful observer to make certain general conclusions about the agency's focus and objectivity.

Of the major agencies now operating in the world, TASS is probably the most deliberately propagandistic. On one "typical" day in June of 1977, the English-language wire contained nothing in the way of feature material, showed little humor or journalistic style, and seemed totally concerned with events bearing upon official Soviet policy and the continuing cold war with capitalist countries. Most items read like official statements from a government agency.

Chukseev, a 44-year-old career man who is married and has one son (aged 16), went to work for the agency in Russia 20 years ago. He served six years in the London bureau and four years in Washington before being transferred to San Francisco. He makes it clear that he feels his first duty is to put the accomplishments of Soviet socialism in the best possible light and to win converts rather than to objectively report fact. He is highly critical of the "sensationalist" American press and its "capitalistic bias." He has no use for such current Soviet enemies as Red China and is highly critical of China's official news agency (Hsinhua). He seems little interested in going out into San Francisco and actually "covering" political and cultural activities. Much of his time seems to be spent reading, clipping, and rewriting items from local daily newspapers.

He complains about official limitations on his coverage. He cannot go more than 25 mi. outside San Francisco without State Dept. approval--a rule which matches one imposed on American correspondents by the Russian government. He seems greatly concerned about charges that some Western newsmen in Moscow have been acting as spies. He vehemently denies that he himself might be engaged in gathering data for his own government.

Nevertheless, the official nature of TASS and of his duties makes Chukseev seem more like a governmental representative than an independent newsman, and talks with his San Francisco colleagues reveal that most of them have come to regard him as such.

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