Guest Reporter Yakov Lysenko Shares His Journey into Journalism and Living in Moscow

Yakov Lysenko, 19, is a journalism student at Moscow State University and a correspondent for, one of the most popular Russian language news sources, serving over a million readers daily, where he specializes in social issues, education and healthcare reform. He is visiting the Long Beach Post newsroom for the next two weeks as an intern with the International Center for Journalists (ICFJ) exchange program.

While most of my classmates are sitting in classes, preparing for seminars, I grab a caramel latte and rush to the editorial office of the Gazeta.Ru news site. The assignment or article that has not been written since yesterday is already waiting for me.

Being a correspondent for one of the largest Russian media outlets at the age of 19 is not so simple. Moscow publishing houses do not open their doors to all journalism students. They have workshops for young people, but when they end, they just say “bye, thank you for coming” and that is it.

I had no contacts in the editorial office to vouch for me, either. A year and a half ago, like all my classmates, I came to a meeting with the editor-in-chief and the chief editor of the online media organization. At the end of the event, the organizers promised to choose one person who would get an internship. That did not happen.

Since it was my third month studying in the department of journalism, I had a lot of free time and energy, so I decided to send a letter and propose my candidacy myself. One day passed. Then a second. And a third. I didn’t get an answer. On the fourth day I decided to go to the editorial office without an invitation. I kicked open the door, so to speak. I went to the chief-editor, who put me in the newsroom.

In the Russian journalism industry, everything works just like this. No one has the time and desire to look for new people, but if someone shows up looking for work, then there will always be some work to do.

I decided to become a journalist back in school — what other profession suits the humanities? The only problem was that before moving to Moscow I lived in a small Russian city with a population of 150,000 people. On local television — old monitors, gnawed wires, and all media being run by the government — so, no freedom of speech. It’s boring, isn’t it?

Three years before graduating from high school, I decided to go to the capital of Russia and see how the journalism industry is there. I attended the shooting of some federal channels’ talk shows, and fell in love with Moscow.

Several years of preparation for the state exam, which gives you an opportunity to enter every university in Russia for free, and the dream came true. I moved to the capital, because I received high scores on the exams.

Even the constant construction did not spoil my positive impression of Moscow. As for the city in which I grew up — it looked like one big construction site.

I remember how we had beautiful metal street signs and installed stands for outdoor advertising: they were crazy about these innovations. Later, a huge screen was put in the center of the city and began to broadcast advertising with mistakes in each sentence.

I was amazed by the size of the business center called Moscow City — except for government high-rise buildings, I had never seen anything like it before. People who worked there seemed lifeless — with stone faces, cigarettes and coffee, they raced into the office, without paying attention to anybody.

The high prices in Moscow cafes and restaurants surprised me. Now, when I’m in my hometown, I send photos of the menu at local restaurants to Moscow friends, and they are amazed at how a Caesar salad in a good cafe can cost only $2 and a Mojito drink, $3.

Speaking about disadvantages of living in a capital city — polluted air. You can easily feel dust and dirt on your skin at the end of the day. To feel fresh air you need to travel one and a half or two hours to the suburbs, where there are forests located near ponds and lakes.

Those who don’t have the opportunity to leave a city still try to do sports and eat healthy. It seems to me that in Moscow, as in many large cities, there is a cult of a healthy lifestyle.

One in two Moscow residents has a subscription to a fitness club. The main city park called Gorky Park in the summer season is full of bicyclists and people engaged in open-air yoga. In small towns the air is cleaner, and the attitude toward sports is different.

Moscow immerses you in a hellish rhythm of life. I noticed that after a month living in the capital I became faster and less distracted by extraneous things. I realized that if you want to succeed in your industry, then you must walk on your hands, be one step ahead of your competitor and increasing your knowledge constantly.

You can forget about sleep, a measured lifestyle, if you do not want someone else to take your place.

The other thing that I realized for myself is that in Moscow you need to have something you can focus on, like university or work. If you do not, then you can quickly fall into depression, as all the surrounding people do not care much about your life. This city will be stuck in your throat, if you do not have something to hold on to, whether it be a job or studies.

You will quickly cease to admire the local sights, like skyscrapers. That’s why before moving to Moscow, think it over: do you need it and what benefits can you bring to this city?

The media outlet I work at writes a lot about international affairs between Russia and the United States. To be objective, it is necessary to visit the country and understand its life. Every city has its own problems. I’m very interested to know more about living in a small American city, like Long Beach. How local authorities interact with residents, whether they hear them, whether they help to solve all incoming questions. Of course, some problems are also relevant for other American cities — so I can get a full picture of the US.

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