Xerox, KGB, and other tidbits

Photocopiers: Six Xerox machines sit out of view in a back office, manned by young office clerks. To get something copied, one needs signed permission from the head of the Sekretariat (the office that handles the details of putting the paper together), who looks over the materials to be copied. Still, I managed several times to smile sweetly and bypass official channels. Staff members are known to get into the locked office after hours to make copies for their own use. Library: Contains back issues of major Soviet magazines and newspapers. There are no clipping files and no access to a computerized data base. Another room has a practically useless file providing general information about people and places.

Technology: Low. Some writers know how to type; others write their pieces longhand and give them to a typist. No immediate plans to computerize. Other news organizations are more modern. The American News Department at the news agency Tass, for example, feels like an American newsroom. Editors work in a large room on video-display terminals. (Moscow News has no ``newsroom.'')

Access to Western news sources: There's a Reuters machine in the wireroom that anyone can read, but surprisingly, English-speaking staff members (of which there are many) show little interest. Also available is Tass ``AD'' - Russian translations of articles from the Western press.

Salaries: All Soviet journalists get a base salary, plus an honorarium for every story published. At Moscow News, a young reporter typically earns 150 rubles ($230) a month, plus another 150 rubles in honorariums (10 rubles per typed page). Staffers who speak a foreign language get a 10 percent bonus (``two pairs of shoes a year,'' a colleague explained). Editors earn only a salary, plus the language bonus. One editor, for example, makes 350 rubles a month. (The average Soviet earns 190 rubles.) As of July 1, all Soviet journalists were to get raises. At Moscow News, raises will come by the end of the year.

KGB (secret police): ``There's a KGB person on the third floor,'' a staff member told me. ``One of his jobs is to read all job applications, and then show them to headquarters.'' He said he heard this from an editor. A KGB presence at MN would not be surprising, since there are a number of foreigners on the staff. In an interview, chief editor Yakovlev was not forthcoming on questions about the KGB.

Sealing wax on the door: Whenever the head of the personnel office takes a vacation, the door to her office is locked with a padlock, which has a string through it bound together with sealing wax. Presumably this is done to discourage people from entering the office while she is away.

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