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Commentary: Ukrainian journalists bravely cover invasion despite dangers around them

It sure puts some perspective on the array of things that we stress about daily in the newsroom but are only minor issues after all.

Rick Lubbers
Rick Lubbers

Journalists are essentially observers — impartial recorders of events, games, meetings, controversies, good deeds and many other newsworthy happenings that surround us every day.

By design, they report from the sidelines and aren't part of the news itself. Once they have published one story for our reading community, they immediately move on to another.

But watching the horrifying news every day of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, I think often of our fellow journalists in that country. They are no longer simply observers of what is going on around them. They are fearing for their lives and the future of their country, all while reporting on the invasion.

Since early 2020, several of us at the Duluth News Tribune, Superior Telegram and Cloquet Pine Journal have met on Zoom with Ukrainian journalists from the 20 Minutes newspaper in Kyiv. We first connected through the IREX journalism program, an international nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
Through an interpreter, we discuss various journalism topics a few times a year. Though there is a bit of a language barrier, we enjoy talking shop. One thing is understood in any language — their passion for providing the best journalism to their readers.

We hoped to host some of them this spring or summer and potentially travel to Kyiv ourselves to learn more about each other and our approaches to journalism.

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But now their country is under attack and their future is in doubt. They are busy covering a war and fearing for their lives and the lives of their friends and loved ones. There likely is little time left over other than to try to sleep and eat.

A few days ago, they were sheltering every other hour due to the Russian bombings. I can't begin to imagine working under such frightening circumstances.

I received a message from Taras Borosovskyy, an investigative reporter with 20 Minutes, Friday morning.

"The invasion has ... practically turned the newsroom work upside down," he wrote. "The communications within the newsroom are done via separate chats. Part of the personnel has moved to more secure places: mainly managers and workers of the production department that are not involved in the work of the website.

"As of today, we realize that most likely we will not return to the previous work mode. Basically, all activities have moved to online. The print product of the newspaper has stopped since there is no opportunity to deliver. ... The newsroom is running out of money and basically we remain fully out of revenue sources due to the closure of all business and stop of work of all advertisers. But, overall, the situation is critical and our future is absolutely unсertain."

Borosovskyy said the 20 Minutes team is pondering moving to a new location.

"Depending on the further development of events, we might need ... relocation of the newsroom office and evacuation of the newsroom with families to the western regions of Ukraine," Borosovskyy said. "But in no case are we planning to stop the work of the newsroom."

It sure puts some perspective on the array of things that we stress about daily in the newsroom but are only minor issues after all. Despite the incredible hardships they are facing — both physical and mental — their website continues to churn out essential coverage of the invasion for their readers. You can check it out at www.20minutes.fr (a button will pop up that will allow you to translate the website to English).

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Those journalists have my utmost admiration.

Please take a few moments to visit their website when you have a chance. You will be reading coverage of the Ukraine invasion directly from the people living through it — journalists who are not only observers, but also residents of Ukraine experiencing the same horrors of the Russian invasion as their friends and neighbors.

Rick Lubbers is the editor of the Duluth News Tribune.

Related Topics: UKRAINEMEDIA
Rick Lubbers has been in his role since 2014 and at the News Tribune since 2005. Previous stops include the Superior Telegram (1999-2005) and Budgeteer News (1997-1999). Prior to that, he worked at the St. Cloud Times and Annandale Advocate in Minnesota, and the Greenville Daily News and Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. He received his journalism degree at Central Michigan University.
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