I had the chance to speak with Andrew Feinberg, Sputnik's former White House correspondent, about his acrimonious departure from the Kremlin-funded outlet, chatting about everything from Russian propaganda to Crimea to Sean Spicer:
Was there any kind of agreement on editorial independence when you first joined Sputnik?
I wouldn’t say an agreement, but there was an assumption when I interviewed for the job, based on what they held themselves out to be. When I interviewed for the job, they asked me how I’d feel about working for a Russian outlet, and they asked how I’d feel if I wrote something that wasn’t true. I said the fact that a news agency is state-sponsored isn’t a bad thing. I actually think it’s a good thing — I think the gathering and dissemination of information is a good thing, and deserving of taxpayer funding. I think every country should put money into that. Voice of America does wonderful work, Agence France-Presse does wonderful work, the BBC does wonderful work. And Al Jazeera — they have shelves and shelves full of Peabody Awards. They do amazing work. So the fact that a news agency is state-sponsored — I don’t find that to be troubling, and I don’t get the bias some have against state-sponsored outlets.
But the difference between those outlets and Sputnik is that Sputnik pretends to be state-sponsored, but they’re really state-controlled. They held themselves out to be like anyone else, they held themselves as having the same editorial independence, with the caveat that their mission is to present the Russian point-of-view. I don’t have an inherent problem with the Russian point-of-view. That being said, when they say the Russian point-of-view, what they really mean is bullshit. Telling the other side is valuable, it’s important — but not when it’s based on lies.