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New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg Blogs About RFE/RL Experience


Hendrik Hertzberg, a senior editor for the New Yorker, recently visited RFE/RL headquarters in Prague. Upon "beaming" back to the U.S., he posted this to the New Yorker's blog. Excerpts are available below, and the posts can be read in full here and here.

"More on the Radios"

Hendrik Hertzberg | The New Yorker

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Getting Congress, which pays the bills, to come across with generous appropriations is tougher than it used to be back when there was a never-ending Super Bowl pitting the U.S.A. against the U.S.S.R. We can be grateful that RFE/RL already exists, because, like the BBC, NASA, and the U.N., it’s the kind of organization that probably couldn’t be started from scratch today. Its budget has shrunk by more than half since Cold War days, but it is still one of the largest news organizations on earth, with eighteen news bureaus, a full-time staff of around a thousand, plus nearly that many stringers. The staffers I met in its Prague headquarters are dedicated, experienced professionals, the kind of colleagues any journalist would be glad to have. It has a substantial presence on the Web and a first-rate English-language site. Its budget—around ninety million dollars this year—is roughly what we spend in a single hour on war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its work is in many ways more germane to the purported goals of those wars.

I can think of many, many worse uses for my tax dollars.

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"A U.S. Enterprise"

Hendrik Hertzberg | The New Yorker

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Kirk’s U.S.S. Enterprise was on a voyage of discovery—a fact-finding mission, basically. So is RFE/RL, but with a useful twist: it doesn’t just find facts, it distributes them, mostly to places where people would otherwise have little or no access to them. Both spaceships come in peace; their elaborate security systems serve strictly defensive purposes. But you can’t go where no one has gone before—and beaming down honest news, information, and commentary to people whose rulers would rather they didn’t hear it is a rough eqivalent—without a certain amount of dedication and, in some cases, courage. There are villains out there. Boldness is a must.

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