BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Alyona Minkovski what is ”The Alyona Show?”
ALYONA MINKOVSKI, THE ALYONA SHOW: The Alyona Show at this point has almost become an extensions of myself whereas at first it was it was a project and it was a go make a TV show. Now, it really has become, I think, the Alyona Show and that it embodies my passions, the things that I really feel deserve to be top news in the you know, in the world, especially in the U.S. too because we do focus on domestic politics, on U.S. politics.
And so the primary goal is to offer an alternative to the mainstream media because there’s just I’m sorry. There’s just so much garbage out there that you want somebody who can weed through it and who’s not just going to go through the basic D.C. back and forth talk that you have about who said what in terms of Eric Cantor and John Boehner. There are larger stories out there including the numerous wars that our country’s involved in including the economic situation.
And I think that somebody people want somebody who is willing to actually talk about that in a big picture to connect the dots and I’m hoping that I’m providing that for people and especially for a younger audience.
I think the Alyona Show is the new generation of what news is in the sense that it’s not dry, it’s not it’s dodgy. It’s witty, it’s sarcastic. And so you’re entertained, but you’re also being informed and you’re learning something. You’re not being dumbed down the way that I think that a lot of the other news does.
LAMB: OK. Where can I see it?
MINKOVSKI: Well, you can watch RT we are on cable in almost every single or every major city in the U.S. I know that we’re on cable in New York, in D.C., in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and I believe maybe North or South Carolina. Something, like, 20 to 22 million households now within the U.S. can access RT on cable.
Around the world, we’re on satellite. You can always watch us online. The Alyona Show has it’s own You Tube channel. You can go to the RT.com website and we livestream everything.
So there are a lot of options out there if you want to find it.
LAMB: How long have you been doing it?
MINKOVSKI: The show itself or working at RT?
LAMB: Either one.
MINKOVSKI: I’ve been working at RT for about two and a half years. The show, we went live, I think it was, January 21st of last year. So it’s been about a year and a half and prior to that we had a few months, about two and a half months where it was in an experimental phase, we were taping the show, it was 30 minutes, we did it twice a week, then we started three times a week, then it went to five days a week and then, boom, we started going live for an hour every day.
LAMB: We have some tape of you on that first show. Let’s just it’s short.
MINKOVSKI: That’s so embarrassing.
LAMB: It’s only 40 seconds. Let’s watch.
LAMB: You know, in one of the blogs a couple of months ago, you wrote this. So we’ll get into the some of your background.
”There are those in this world who can’t look past the name and funding of where I work and assume that I’m a Russian propagandist who gets my scripts straight from the Kremlin only after I finish our obligatory morning session of worshipping a bare-chested picture of Putin.”
MINKOVSKI: Yes. Yes.
LAMB: How often do you get that and explain RT used to stand for Russia Today. How does that network work?
MINKOVSKI: You know, I can’t say that I mean, that when I was blogging, there was guest blogging, Radley Balko’s blog, The Agitator. And so that was my little introduction there where I decided to play with it, to make fun of some of the critique that we get because, yes, RT did is stands for Russia Today. Now, we just go by RT. It’s cleaner. It’s more simple.
And, you know, for me, part of that is just being able to laugh at that critique because I don’t feel like it’s really a valid one. I do believe that people are afraid when they see somebody else and I think you know, we’ve seen this from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has mentioned RT. We’ve seen this from the Broadcasting Board of Governors as they really see this as a competition and they’re saying that we’re losing to the Russians and they can’t believe that it’s happening, you know, on their own turf here in the U.S.
But for me, I’m an American. So anytime I hear that criticism that I somehow am anti-American and I work for a propaganda machine that works against this government, I have to laugh at it because otherwise, it really gets my blood boiling because I am an American. I love this country. And I feel that it’s my duty I would even go as far as calling it my patriotic duty to really report on what’s happening here on the real issues that I feel like our mainstream media really is happy to close their eyes to, is really happy to try to blind the eyes of the masses as well because I feel like they have become this body that works for the government. They’re a lap dog of the government instead of a watch dog of the government these days.
So somebody’s got to do it and it’s embarrassing, I think, for U.S. media if RT is doing a much better job at exposing some of the hypocrisy and the corruption and the wrongdoing that’s going on here.
LAMB: Who owns RT?
MINKOVSKI: RT is publically funded. So it’s funded by the Russian government.
LAMB: Why did they do it? Do you know?
MINKOVSKI: You know, you would have to ask them.
LAMB: And how did you get involved in it?
MINKOVSKI: I was in Moscow one summer. I have a lot of family that still lives in Moscow. And so I had been working there and had been introduced to RT and at that point I was still in college, still thinking of what I might do after I graduate and had always been interested in journalism and decided to intern at the channel and just check it out. And...
LAMB: But where were you in college at the time?
MINKOVSKI: I was I was going to U.C. Santa Cruz U.C. Santa Cruz. I’m a banana slug, that’s a school in Northern California which is has a very mellow, hippy vibe, I guess you could say, and which really made me realize that I lived in another world growing up when I came here to Washington, D.C. I never realized that I would be such an ubber crazy leftie until I moved here because I thought that that was absolutely normal.
But so at that point, you know, I interned at RT. I was really interested in what they were doing, but all of their offices were still in Russia and I wasn’t prepared to move back there.
And then once I did graduate from the university, they had already opened up offices here. And so I decided to contact them, see if they are interested, if they need people and from there, it just kind of, you know, it all went the usual route: e-mails, phone calls, interviews and it happened.
LAMB: What did you major in?
MINKOVSKI: I majored in political science. Although, at Santa Cruz, because they like to be different, they just called it politics and I minored in film and digital media.
LAMB: Where you were born though in Moscow?
MINKOVSKI: I was born in Moscow and I moved to the States when I was four.
LAMB: And you have a kind of a famous mother.
MINKOVSKI: I do have kind of a famous mother. That’s right. She is a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist. She was a pair skater and it’s something that is, you know brings a lot of joy to my heart. Of course, it’s something that I’m very proud of, but both of my parents are incredible people.
My mother was a figure skater. She now is actually involved in politics in Russia. She’s now in the Duma. My father is an entrepreneur. He was a trained architect, but he’s done everything from that design to film production as well.
So all in all, they’re both incredibly inspiring people that have, you know, helped me every step of the way become who I am.
LAMB: So she’s a part of the Russian legislature?
MINKOVSKI: She is now, yes. She’s a part of the Duma.
LAMB: How did you get to the States and what year did you come here and why?
MINKOVSKI: We came in 1990 and it my mother at that point was done figure skating, but she was coaching. And so we moved to Lake Arrowhead, California, which was a tiny town in the mountains, but where they happened to have an international training center where, you know, Michelle Kwan and people like that skated. Carlo Fossi coached there. So it was this small little nook in Southern California where you just had an immense amount of talent, but I think that my father always wanted to move to the States.
So that was a obviously a decision I didn’t have any part of. I was four years old, but I couldn’t be happier that they made it.
LAMB: And how would you define your politics? You are an American citizen?
LAMB: And how would you define your politics?
MINKOVSKI: Well, I guess, you know, I would call myself liberal. And I have absolutely no problem saying that and I am a registered Democrat. I voted Democratic in the last election, but I feel like the longer that I’ve been here in Washington the more disenchanted I am with the political system and with both parties and that’s something that we really try to do on the show too is step above that fray because I feel like there’s such an effort in this country by politicians, by the media as well, to convince people that we’re so polarized, that we’re so different and we can never see eye-to-eye.
But there’s so much that Americans have in common with each other, but they’re being distracted by, you could say, wedge issues, you know, things like abortion or gay marriage which, I mean, both to me are incredibly important issues. To me, gay marriage and gay rights are those that’s, like, the civil rights fight of my generation, I think you could say.
So they definitely are important issues, but I think that it’s a way to divide people to try to distract them so they don’t realize that there is this is becoming a corporate state, that both parties no longer work for the people, but both Republicans and Democrats are slaves to a military industrial complex.
They’re slaves to Wall Street, are slaves to corporations that really control everything and have such a strong and very expensive grasp on it.
LAMB: If you live in Washington, and I do in this area, you can watch Russia Today, RT, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, your program every night, 6 o’clock, 10 o’clock, one hour.
LAMB: Is it hard to do a one-hour television show every day?
MINKOVSKI: It’s hard in the sense that, you know, there are some days when I don’t want to be on TV. There are some days when you just don’t feel like having to go on TV and put on a show for people and it’s a lot of stress because no matter what happens, you come in that morning and you know that I have to fill an hour of TV and it has to start at 6 p.m. and there are no ways around it. That’s what happens when you do a live program is you just have to roll with the punches and see what happens.
But I really love what I do. I love the team that I work with. And so we do come in excited everyday thinking of what the material is that we’re going to put together, what we’re going to put out there.
And, of course, you know, always hoping that the people are going to notice because we’re doing it better than the other stations out there.
LAMB: Let’s watch you and a little comment on Sarah Palin.
MINKOVSKI: Let’s do it.
LAMB: Money-grubbing media whore?
MINKOVSKI: Yes, you had to get my foul-mouthed ways there, didn’t you?
LAMB: Well, no. But you were you would you hear that on an American network?
MINKOVSKI: No, I don’t think you would hear. I tell I’ll tell you where I think you could hear that, which is a place where I draw some inspiration from, is I think you would hear that from Jon Stewart and I think you would hear that from Stephen Colbert and I think that those are the venues where people are really flocking to, because you want somebody who has an edge to them to talk about the news.
And if especially if you’re going to make fun of the news and how seriously they try to take themselves, then people, it’s fine to be, I think, a little crass sometimes. Satire goes a long way.
Like I said, wit goes a long way and I especially think that that’s what younger people want. And because it’s no longer it’s not the Katie Couric’s, I’m sorry, that people like her that get these multi-million dollar contracts to host the evening news, but nobody gathers around the TV every night when their families anymore to watch the evening news.
And if they do, it’s definitely not my generation. I think you can blame some of that on the fact that well, this is a different world. We have DVR. Everyone’s lives are so much more hectic and so much busier and you have the Internet. You can watch whenever it’s convenient for you, but I also think people are tired of it.
And let me go back to, you know, a point that I was making earlier there is that I do feel like there is this deliberate effort to dumb television down for the audiences and I don’t think that that’s what they want and I think that they want to be spoken to like they’re like they’re a worth audience, like, they’re on the same intellectual level as you.
And that’s why wit and satire is funny because they feel like they’re being challenged as well as entertained as well as they’re learning something rather than just hearing this mind-boggling Casey Anthony, yada, yada, yada, go on and on and on.
LAMB: Tool Time. What is Tool Time and was that your name for it?
MINKOVSKI: Tool Time well, I have to I have to admit. I don’t know if I’m going to get sued for this or something, but I definitely watched what was the show with Tim Allen when I was a when I was a kid. I’ve completely forgotten about it now, but they had a fake show called Tool Time, he and his partner and so that name just kind of rung a bell when we were trying to think of a segment that we could brand that we knew we could do every single day because there’s always going to be someone new to make fun of because of a gaff that they made or because of a stance that they took that’s completely hypocritical.
And so Tool Time has become the a treasured favorite, I think, of the Alyona Show because it’s really a moment where we get to have fun and there’s a lot of people out there that stick their foot in their mouth and thanks to the fact that everything is recorded these days, you can always find a good clip of it, too.
LAMB: How long do you make that?
MINKOVSKI: How long is the Tool Time segment of the show?
MINKOVSKI: It varies, but maybe between, you know, two and a half to four minutes every day.
LAMB: Well, here’s a minute of one of your Tool Times.
LAMB: Some would say that we’re better off as a country if they’re not in session.
MINKOVSKI: And they would say that why? Because then they’re just engaged in too much of politics?
LAMB: Or spending too much money.
MINKOVSKI: Well, of course, spending money is their job and I’m definitely in agreeance that Congress spends a little too much money, but as long as you’re here, then at least do something. The way that they’re really spending a lot of money is when they sit around and they don’t actually pass any legislation because it’s all about grandstanding and refusing to compromise and pretending like you have some serious principles, but then you go through and have backdoor meetings and you maybe make some deals here and there.
But then you go back out into the public and you pretend like you’re still standing your ground whereas really you’re making a deal that completely goes against, like I said, what those principles are.
It’s just so much back and forth and nothing is getting done in this country. And, again, I feel like a lot of that is an act and that’s when it really becomes a waste of money. It becomes completely unfair to Americans because we voted these people into office. We voted for you to represent our interests and they’re not doing that.
A) They’re not working all that long and whenever they are home, maybe they meet with a few constituents, but it’s what they do here in Washington that really matters because this is where the deals are made. This is where the legislation is written, where it’s signed, where it’s voted on.
This is the center of power and if they’re just sitting around behind closed doors, like I said, collecting money from lobbyists and making all these back-handed deals, but then coming out and giving a lovely speech to the public pretending that they’re still on their side, you’ve got to call them out for it.
LAMB: Now, you said early in our discussion that this show is really for younger people or at least you were you think about it. Can I guess that you’re in your 20s? Is that fair?
MINKOVSKI: I’ll even let you in on even more of a secret. I’m 25.
LAMB: Are you the youngest person to do a national television show then?
MINKOVSKI: You know, I don’t even know. I’ve actually never looked into it. Have you?
LAMB: No, but I was just thinking here trying to think of others. I mean, Rachel Maddow is only in her early 30s, I believe, but I don’t know of anybody that’s at your age that had and you do give your opinions on purpose. I mean, that’s all part of the plan.
MINKOVSKI: Yes, it’s all part of the plan. I don’t pretend like our show is a straight hour of news by any means. It’s called the Alyona Show. It’s a personality-centric show and it’s while I do feel that we are we are reporting on stories, what I do offer is analysis. So it is my opinion that’s interjected in there and I don’t I don’t mask that at all.
LAMB: Go back to where you learned, what you think. I mean, where did it start for you? When did you get active?
MINKOVSKI: Right. Where I learned what I think. I think it’s something that develops your whole life...
LAMB: But when did it start do you think for you?
MINKOVSKI: In terms of being politically engaged?
LAMB: Being politically aware and who influenced you?
MINKOVSKI: You know, I have to say that I traveled all my life thanks to my family. I have seen a lot of the world and since a since a very early age and that’s something...
LAMB: Give us an idea.
MINKOVSKI: You know, I’ve maybe visited 20 or so countries. When I was younger, we were going all over Europe. I’ve been to a million island countries. I’ve been to Japan. I’ve been to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay.
LAMB: Is this because your mom was a skater?
MINKOVSKI: This is both, traveling with my mother and traveling with my father who loves to travel and was always trying to open my eyes to the world. And so that, I think, first, just started affecting me.
Also, I studied abroad and I lived in Barcelona for four months while I was in university. I lived in Florence for four months. That really starts to hit you when you see a different world out there, when you start talking to people in other countries and you realize the their perceptions matter and you start to think of the way that they really see your country, the way that they start to see America, the way they see politics in general and the entire dynamics of the world.
And so I think that that really wakes you up and makes you start to be curious about it. Also, you know, from my generation, I was 14 years old on 9/11. I was in boarding school and that was a really odd moment for me because even though I’d I wouldn’t call myself as someone who had been sheltered or naοve, I didn’t know what terrorism was. I had no idea.
I didn’t know what Al Qaida or the Taliban were and suddenly, we’re fighting wars on behalf of this country to fight this giant threat. And so I have grown up in this society where we’re always at war and there’s always this supposed fear of terrorism and I just don’t think that it’s right. I think that young people need to be shaken out of that because it’s not it’s not normal to be at constant war. That is not a way to conduct your affairs. That’s not a way to try to be a world leader.
And I think that there are a lot of people at my age that just haven’t really known it to be any different. And so you need to start realizing that these things can change, that you need to stand up and you need to speak out against it and go out and protest and write your Congress members and do whatever it takes, but this can stop. America doesn’t have to be on this constant spiral where we are using our counterterrorism policies and strategies worldwide.
LAMB: Russia Today, RT, is seen around the world?
LAMB: Is your program?
MINKOVSKI: Yes, it is.
LAMB: So, in other words, when you do your program live at 6 o’clock around the network around the world runs it?
MINKOVSKI: My the my program runs live from 6 to 7 p.m. and we repeat, like you said, at 10 p.m. and it’s that 10 p.m. repeat that goes live. So, for example, I know that it’s on at 7 o’clock in the morning in Moscow because that’s where I have some family members. So they’ll call me.
LAMB: What do they do in Moscow? Do they translate?
MINKOVSKI: No, it’s still all in English. The channel is because it’s meant for an international audience, it’s meant for the entire world to see, it’s in English just the way, you know, the BBC or Al Jazeera English is because that is the dominant language for now.
LAMB: Where does RT has studios in the world?
MINKOVSKI: RT has we have a studio here in Washington, in New York, in Miami, in Los Angeles. We have our studio in Moscow. There are a few small bureaus in Vilisi (ph) in Georgia. In London, we have a reporter as well and in Ukraine I know that we have a reporter too and in India.
LAMB: Where did it...
MINKOVSKI: There might be a few that I’m missing too because there are also RT Spanish and there’s RT Arabic.
LAMB: How much reaction do you personally get from doing this show?
MINKOVSKI: From who?
LAMB: Just around the world. I mean, how do you how do you know anybody’s watching?
MINKOVSKI: That’s a very good question because sometimes you start to wonder, right? You’re wondering how many people are really watching. First of all, we get a lot of reaction from people online. A lot of our audience comes from You Tube because of the fact that it’s broadcast worldwide and because it’s much more convenient. A lot of people do indeed watch online.
You know, on Facebook, I get a million messages from people all the time that are from all over the world and that makes me feel good because, you know in one day I’ll get a message from somebody in India and somebody in Australia and somebody in London.
People contact us on Twitter all the time. So now, we have a dialogue going constantly and so we know that there are other people that are clued in, that are plugged in to I mean, let’s face it. These days you have to constantly be plugged in. You have to be following the news every second because it’s developing every single second on Twitter and you always have to be watching.
And our audience is too because they’re always responding to us.
LAMB: So what about reaction from people that watch it, just say, in the Washington area? I mean, if you’re on cable here or you can get it over the air, but most people get it on cable. You’re on there with nine other international networks, you know, channel 280 all the way up to, what is it? No, it’s 271, I think, up to 280.
MINKOVSKI: We’re 274, but yes, somewhere in that area there’s a number of international networks.
LAMB: Yes. Do you get reaction here in town?
MINKOVSKI: Yes, I get a lot of reaction here in town. I...
LAMB: Anybody complain about your positions on things?
MINKOVSKI: Can you complain or do they?
LAMB: I say do they? Yes.
MINKOVSKI: Well, sure. I mean, it depends on who it is and what their some people the whole point is I bring them on my show so they can complain about my position on things so we can have a good honest debate about it and, you know, maybe yell at each other for a few minutes and then see if anybody if anybody wins here, but I think that the fact that people want to come on our show is a testament to the fact that they’re paying attention, that they’re interested, that we have, you know we have members of Congress like Dennis Kucinich, Representative Keith Ellison was just on the show the other day, Ron Paul talks to our channel often.
That to me is a testament that people in Washington are starting to pay attention. Like I said, Hillary Clinton has mentioned it, the Broadcasting Board of Governors have mentioned it. I think we’re definitely on the radar here.
LAMB: And you have a fellow on there named Thom Hartmann?
MINKOVSKI: Thom Hartmann also does a program, yes.
LAMB: American who used to be in Oregon. He’s now moved in this area. I guess he’s based here now doing does he do the show here?
MINKOVSKI: Yes, he does the show here. He still does a radio show, which amazes me how he fits all that into one day, but he still does a radio show every day and also a one-hour TV show on the channel.
LAMB: And something called is it Crosstalk with Peter Lavelle?
MINKOVSKI: Peter Lavelle is he’s in Moscow.
LAMB: But he’s an American?
MINKOVSKI: Peter Lavelle is an American. Yes, I’ve never met him. So I don’t know too much about him, but he lives in Moscow and that’s where he has to sail (ph) from.
LAMB: And what’s the rest of the day on RT? What kind of things can people see?
MINKOVSKI: Well, it depends. Where our bureau is here now in Washington, D.C. is we are RT America. So we focus on U.S. politics, on domestic politics. And in Moscow, that’s RT International.
And so they switch off because Moscow is running 24 hours a day and our newscast doesn’t start here until 4:00 p.m. and it runs until 8:30 p.m. at which point after that my show and Thom Hartmann’s show repeat.
So you can watch us specifically in the evening, but at any other time, you’ll see RT International on.
LAMB: You’re 25 years old and you’ve now done this for two years.
MINKOVSKI: Don’t keep repeating it, Brian. Come on.
LAMB: Well, the reason I do is how did they know had you done television before this?
LAMB: How did they know that you could do this? How did they test you?
MINKOVSKI: That’s a good question. I’m very thankful that they decided to test me by giving me a show and putting so much responsibility in my hands and really taking a chance on me, but prior to hosting the show, I had been a correspondent for the channel for a couple of months. I was already doing live hits, I was traveling and doing stories.
But the you know, also we did a pilot because I think that people saw that maybe I have a little more to offer than just going out and reporting straight stories because I love I love the human interaction. I love interviewing people.
I also obviously love to speak my mind and get deeper into those issues. And so I think that my boss and the superiors at my channel really saw some kind of something in me that they thought maybe people would like, maybe people would relate to and that, I guess, I could carry it.
LAMB: So who runs the whole shebang in out of Moscow?
MINKOVSKI: Who runs the whole shebang out of Moscow?
MINKOVSKI: We have, you know, a chief, Margarita Semonyan. She runs the entire operation here. We also have my boss who runs our editorial side in Washington, D.C., but I can’t say that I have a whole lot of contact with Moscow.
LAMB: I see a lot of women.
MINKOVSKI: You see a lot of women on the channel.
LAMB: A lot of younger people. A lot of younger people on the channel.
MINKOVSKI: The entire channel has a lot of younger people on it and I think that they’re really smart in doing that. I think that they’ve brought in a lot of people with fresh ideas that like I said, I know that my audience isn’t all young people. I’m not only directing my show towards a younger audience. I know that there’s an older audience out there and you told me yourself that you watch the show. And so...
LAMB: I was going to say, if I watch it, it’s not a young audience only.
MINKOVSKI: You know, so that’s a pleasure too, but I think that the whole point is that we’re willing to step outside the box. We’re willing to try something different to figure out how to make TV news exciting and entertaining and informative again rather than, I’m sorry, but, like I said, the garbage that it really is dwindled down to be.
LAMB: Here is some more of your show when you’re talking about Afghanistan.
LAMB: You call you call that segment, ”Fireside Fridays.”
LAMB: What’s that about?
MINKOVSKI: Fireside Fridays is my chance every Friday I’ll pick something that something that we may have been reporting throughout the week and maybe I want to wrap up on it or it’s just something I want to take out a personal moment just between myself and the audience without a guest or I want to highlight an issue that I feel really passionately about and it’s supposed to be a little bit more of this warm, fuzzy setting. It’s we realize that it’s cheesy. We have a fake fireplace, but...
LAMB: Oh, that wasn’t real?
MINKOVSKI: ... but we have fun with it and, you know, it’s something that I really I think a lot about every week. It’s I take my time writing it because it’s really something, like I said, that I feel passionately about and the war in Afghanistan, if you watch the program, you’ll notice it’s something that we cover constantly.
LAMB: Well, let’s do another clip on Afghanistan and you referred to the Soviets not winning there also.
LAMB: How much of this is dictated to you from Moscow?
MINKOVSKI: None of it.
LAMB: How much of this is something that you don’t want to say that you’re told to say from here from somebody that works at RT?
MINKOVSKI: None of it.
LAMB: So what is I mean, what is the purpose from what you know of RT being around the world? What do they want to get at? What is the country of Russia want to get out of this?
MINKOVSKI: Like I said, Brian, I can’t necessarily answer that question on behalf of the entire country of Russia, but I do think that there is a vested interest for any country to be able to show that there isn’t this there doesn’t need to be a hegemony when it comes to looking at the world and there’s not only a Western viewpoint or only a Eastern viewpoint.
LAMB: Well, let me interrupt to ask you, is it like the Voice of America?
MINKOVSKI: Yes, you could you could compare it to Voice of America, you can compare it to BBC.
LAMB: Or the
MINKOVSKI: Like I said, you can compare it to Al Jazeera English to channels like that.
LAMB: And is there a it can the Voice of America be seen in Russia or listened to in Russia?
MINKOVSKI: I think so. I’m pretty sure it can, but to be honest, I don’t know because I haven’t watched it there.
LAMB: How many folks do you need in Washington to do the job you’re doing? In other words, first on your show and then the whole bureau, how big is it?
MINKOVSKI: My show, we have about seven people that are our full-time staff in terms of we come in every morning, we have our editorial meeting that we decide on ourselves that nobody dictates to us. It’s really a very organic process and that we come in, we talk about what we saw on the news, what stories we saw online, we all check our favorite blogs and then we just decide what we think is going to be good and what’s going to roundout the show that day.
And we also have then, of course, some great technical crew that starts beefing up the numbers and overall I think there are about 65 to 70 people that work out of the bureau in D.C. now which is a big change because when I first started working at RT, there was seven of us total.
LAMB: And in Russia, what under what umbrella is it? And I read somewhere that Novosti has something is Novosti the over the umbrella organization that RT fits under?
MINKOVSKI: You know, I’m not good with all of those details in terms of what umbrella we’re under there. In Moscow, we’re in the same building, but Moscow has a really big operation there. They have they’re probably 10 times bigger than we are here in D.C.
LAMB: So you said earlier that there is a network in Russian and in Arabic?
MINKOVSKI: They have RT Arabic and they have RT Spanish, which launched recently.
LAMB: Spanish. What languages do you speak?
MINKOVSKI: I speak English and I speak Russian. My Spanish used to be good at one point, but, you know, without practice, it really has faded, which is embarrassing for me to admit because Spanish growing up in California, especially that’s something that I studied in school, it seems natural, I studied abroad in Barcelona and I really, really took a liking to it, but without practice, everything starts to fade. I just think I need to practice again.
LAMB: Where did you learn your Russian?
MINKOVSKI: Where did I learned my Russian not in school. I never studied it because I moved here when I was four and since preschool, I’ve been in school in the U.S.
So just conversationally just through speaking with my family.
LAMB: And how much time do you spend in Russia or have you spent over the years? Your mom lives there full-time?
MINKOVSKI: Yes, my mother lives there, my brother lives there, my grandmother lives there. So I used to go back probably once or twice a year when I was in school when you have said breaks and so a little easier when you have vacations like that and now, I haven’t been in almost two years unfortunately because I definitely, you know, would love to see my brother and my niece and my mother and my grandmother.
But it’s I find it harder and harder to do when you’re working full-time.
LAMB: Did your brother grow up here?
MINKOVSKI: My brother was 11 years old when we moved to the States. He’s seven years older than me and he lived in the U.S. for about 10 years and then he moved back.
LAMB: What got your mother interested in being a part of the legislature, the Duma?
MINKOVSKI: You know, you’re going to have to ask her that question yourself because I was surprised. I knew my mother as an athlete and as a figure skater all my life and one day, she just told me, ”I’m going into politics.”
LAMB: What does she who does what area does she represent?
MINKOVSKI: She represents Omsk which is in Siberia, but she lives full-time in Moscow, but she’s flying back and forth between Omsk all the time.
LAMB: We’ve been talking about your mother and we do have a clip of you interviewing her.
MINKOVSKI: Ah, in Vancouver.
LAMB: And what was before we go there, what is the what are the circumstances of this interview?
MINKOVSKI: The circumstances were that the Olympics were going on. My mother was there and we thought it would be a great opportunity and a fun opportunity and we were granted to be able to fly me out there so I could interview my mom on the show.
LAMB: And what is her name?
MINKOVSKI: Her name is Irina Rodnina.
LAMB: Let’s watch.
LAMB: Did you ever know your mother to be political when she was...
MINKOVSKI: No, not really. My mother has always been a very opinionated woman, believe me. She doesn’t hold back when she’s got something to say, but I never really thought of her as anybody who was political, but I think she’s doing a great job, you know, from the stories that I hear from the programs that she develops that, you know, will be new teams for children or new sports programs for orphans and I think she’s doing a great job.
LAMB: Well, do you I asked you earlier where do you think you got your own views, how much did her views impact you when you were growing up?
MINKOVSKI: You know, I can’t say that my mother and I spoke a lot about politics growing up. So I don’t I you know, they will they will tell you statistically that often your political views and your ideology will resemble that of your parents and I can’t necessarily say that that’s true for me with either my mother or my father.
My father is more conservative than I am and, you know, sometimes we get in our own heated debates. So I really think that it was my education, it was the people that I was surrounded with, you know, living in California.
I think there is a certain mentality to living in that state and I think that that really did influence me a lot.
LAMB: And U.C. Santa Cruz is not exactly a conservative place.
MINKOVSKI: U.C. Santa Cruz is not a conservative place by any means.
LAMB: What’s the Happy Hour segment on the Alyona Show?
MINKOVSKI: The Happy Hour segment is it’s fairly new. I think we’ve been doing it for a couple of months now. And we decided that it would be fun to round out the show with, you know, there’s always certain stories that don’t necessarily they’re not worthy of an entire interview and an entire an entire discussion and they may be a little more playful and a little more fun.
And there are some people that you just love talking about that kind of stuff with because you think of the stories that at the end of the day people go home from or not go home from work, but they might leave work, they might go to the bar, go to Happy Hour and what do they want to share with their friends, what do they want to discuss that does have some political implication in it and that’s where Happy Hour really was born from.
And it’s a little fun. It’s a little bit of unwinding for me at the end of the show too because I I don’t know people always tell me that maybe I’m a little more serious in the beginning because it’ll be a topic, like I said, it’ll be something about the war in Afghanistan and the new strategy and what the president said that day which I just get so wrapped up in.
And so it’s nice to let loose at the end of the hour and then have a little fun and laugh about it.
LAMB: Here’s a clip where you’re talking about a little bit about Glenn Beck.
LAMB: Glenn Beck.
MINKOVSKI: Glenn Beck holds a special place in my heart.
LAMB: Why is that? Because we have some other clips that we’re going to run again.
MINKOVSKI: Yes, Glenn Beck has, believe me, provided our show with a lot of material and the funny thing is now I don’t even really talk about Glenn Beck anymore because not only has his program ended on Fox News, but I feel like his influence has really faded a lot, too.
And for a while there though, Glenn Beck was he was booming. The his ratings were high and anytime I watched this man, this is what’s wrong to me is this is one factor of what’s wrong with U.S. media is there’s the Fox News model and then there’s the everybody else model.
On the Fox News model, what they’ve managed to do is to whip people up into a frenzy. They work on fear and they work on paranoia and you have a man like Glenn Beck out there who and I do think that people are confused and probably think that he’s telling you news when really he’s acting like this weird, you know, televangelist, but he’s just telling you that at all times there is a conspiracy to take this world down whether it be the liberals that are working with the communists that are also working with the Muslim Calafate and he just goes on and on and on and on and it’s such nonsense and I think he really scares people.
He really influenced people for a while and Americans believed him and I was here when he has his Restoring Honor Rally on the mall and I just had this really overwhelming feeling where I was it always brought tears to my eyes because there were so many people coming here and I couldn’t believe that so many people are inspired by this man that just wants to scare them and peddle gold to them and peddle food shortage kits to them.
He’s an actor. He’s an actor and people believe in what it is that he’s trying to sell and it’s ludicrous to me and that’s why I think people like Glenn Beck need to be need to be criticized.
LAMB: Speaking of actors, let’s watch a little bit of you.
LAMB: What are you doing there?
MINKOVSKI: That was last Halloween and we decided it’s Halloween, why not dress up and do the entire show as somebody else? And for a second, I think Sarah Palin may have come to mind and then we decided, no, no, no, it’s got to be Glenn Beck.
And so that was a that was probably the most exhausting hour of my life. I was just telling your staff before we began because it’s one thing to go on TV and be myself everyday for an hour. It’s another thing to go on TV and just act like somebody else. That took a lot of a lot of energy I’ve got to admit, but it was fun. It was fun to do.
But, like I said, I didn’t even bother revisiting that for the end of Glenn Beck’s reign, I guess you could say, at Fox News because at that point I already felt like his influence had died down and good.
LAMB: Here’s a little bit more of you doing this.
LAMB: Why do you think he was so successful?
MINKOVSKI: Glenn Beck? I think that there is a void right now that needs to be filled when it comes to television news and when it comes to media and information. I think people are still hungry for it, but there obviously are a lot of fears that are very easy to play upon in American society right now, be it the Xenophobia with when we deal with immigration or, of course, Xenophobia when it comes to Islamaphobia as well because of 9/11 and because of all the uncertainty with the economy.
And I do think that people they want somebody that they can relate to, that they can listen to and, like I said, I think he pulled the right strings and he learned how to play upon those fears.
And that’s one model that is successful whereas the rest of the media you see that they’re struggling. CNN is changing their lineup and trying new shows left and right and none of that is working for them, you know?
And, like I said, you have the other networks that are hiring people like Katie Couric and paying them millions to try to get them to fill that evening time slot and firing other people because of it and that is failing for them and that’s because there’s either a void in the sense that regular mainstream news isn’t news anymore. You don’t learn anything from it.
If you want to learn something, you go online and you can read all of the facts. You can read all of the details, you know, be it on an actual newspaper website or just be it on some type of a blog.
But other than that, it’s just it’s just boring because it’s mindless. And so then you have Fox News, which knows how to whip people up and play upon their emotions, and I think that’s where my show is trying to really to find a new niche for people and that same niche, like I said, that I think that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert managed to fill for people that they want a logic argument. They don’t need to be scared all the time. They know what’s going on, but they want it to be funny, they want it to be sarcastic, they want you to talk to them and they want you to talk to them about issues that actually matter to people these days.
I’m sorry, but the Cold War is long over. For my generation, that doesn’t matter. We’re not afraid of communism anymore. Quite the opposite. We’re afraid of the fact that we have this massive security state and intelligent state that’s growing, that is, we’re constantly under surveillance. Privacy is something that, I think, is incredibly important for my generation, for any generation, but just as long as long as we carry on into the future because technology plays such a large role in our lives and I think that’s why it’s so interesting to watch all the developments and to monitor things like to Protect IP Act and that’s why I go to blogs like Techdirt and I speak with people like Julian Sanchez from the Cato Institute because these are the people that are really specializing in this type of privacy security information that is affecting all of us and we just have no idea.
And I think that honestly some of our legislators don’t know what they’re actually writing laws about. I think it’s even too complex for them to understand, which is even scarier.
LAMB: You know, you’ve been very strong about saying you’re an American.
LAMB: And but you work for a Russian television network, but your mom’s in the Duma. Did she ever Americanize when she came here or did she did she become a citizen?
MINKOVSKI: No, she did not.
LAMB: How do you as you look back, you know a lot of the publicity that Mr. Putin gets in this country, for instance, that the country is less open than it used to be and all that. How do you track all this?
I mean, are you first and foremost an American through and through, a believer in American democracy, or do you wish that we did some of the things they did in Russia?
MINKOVSKI: I’m an American through and through. Of course I believe in American democracy. This is the country where I was educated. This is where I grew up. This is what this is what I know which is why I take such a vested interest in talking about the problems and bringing them up so that we can address them and make the country better, you know?
And what I do on my show is I don’t criticize the politics of other countries and what might be going on there because I just I focus on America. And, you know, Russia to me is a place that I have an emotional connection with because that’s where like I said, that’s where I was born, that’s where I still have family, but politically minded, I look at the I look at the U.S. and how we interact with the rest of the world.
LAMB: I heard you the other night say, ”The Washington Post, oh, how that mighty newspaper has fallen.” Why did you say that?
MINKOVSKI: Because it has fallen. And for starters, you know, The Washington Post and The New York Times, you could say, these have been considered by many people to be the premiere journalistic organizations in this country, but we’ve seen not only massive layoffs and massive shrinking space, especially if you go with the Times, but we’ve also seen The Washington Post be embroiled in this Kaplan scandal where you figure out that it’s all a money-making scheme.
And that day specifically, I can’t remember exactly what it was that was on the cover of The New York Times, but I think it was Michelle Obama’s burger that she ate and how many calories it had. You’ve got to be kidding me! You’ve got to be kidding me that that is the top news of the day.
And I feel like if you’re going to pretend to be the mighty newspaper in this nation, then you better cover I’m happy that these newspapers worked with WikiLeaks at first, but the way that The New York Times has now turned against Julian Assange and yet, they keep writing stories based on the information that’s been leaked by WikiLeaks and they play this very cozy game with the government as well where they will withhold information if the president asks them to.
I think that all of that has to make you start questioning who they’re really working for: government watchdog or government lapdog?
LAMB: You can watch everything you do on RT?
LAMB: Meaning the internet in case people can’t see it. But you can also you have RT has an aggressive pitch that they make that people they want people in the media to use their stuff, their clips and all. Do you do you find people using it in our media around the country?
MINKOVSKI: Yes. I don’t know how aggressive their pitch is when it comes to other people using their clips.
LAMB: Well, you just hear it on the air. I mean, I picked it up. I said, you know, ”They encourage you to go to their website and use the material.”
MINKOVSKI: Because why not? Right? Why not have as many people put their eyes on it and actually see it and hear it and feel it as possible.
LAMB: Let me show a RT Network promo. It’s only 46 seconds to see the kind of thing that they tell you, tell their your audience every day.
LAMB: We never censor your opinions. That’s what it said on that screen; is that true?
MINKOVSKI: That’s right. Can’t tell you I’ve ever censored an opinion on the show. Maybe I’ve brought a guest on that I know I’m going to debate and I told him to cut the crap, but I don’t I don’t censor opinions.
LAMB: Alyona, that spelling, A-L-Y-O-N-A.
LAMB: If you were in Russia, how would that be pronounced?
MINKOVSKI: It’s Alyona and people who speak English can’t exactly say Alyona. And so rather than for some reason it’s just a really horrible pain to my ears when people say Alyona when they pronounce the ”Y.” So I’ve just made it silent and that was something that just happened when I was a kid.
LAMB: Well, I’ve got a 30-second promo for you on your show. What do you think about being a personality? How does that feel to you after you’ve done it for a couple of years?
MINKOVSKI: It’s well, now that I feel like I have learned to grow in of how to grow into being a personality and how to embrace it, I really I love it and I feel confident because I do think that I have something to offer. I think that there’s a reason that people want to watch the show.
But at first, believe me, I was I was scared. It’s a it’s a hard thing especially, you know, when you’re 23 years old to figure out what exactly your personality is that you’re going to be putting on TV every day.
LAMB: Here’s your promo.
LAMB: How long did it take you to do that?
MINKOVSKI: That was, you know we had a crew come in from Moscow with their special fancy red cam that they had and we really only had a couple of hours, I believe, because I was also working on the show that day. So it didn’t take a whole lot of time, but that promo is that promo is funny.
Ask anybody that I work with and they’ll know that I complained about it all the time because while it’s aesthetically pleasing and beautiful, my beef is always that it looks like I just walk in and say, ”Let’s do the show” as if I don’t sit there and work all day preparing for it. But that’s just a personal thing.
LAMB: Where do you think you’ll be in 10 years?
MINKOVSKI: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I’m going to see where life takes me, see where I think this career may take me. I wasn’t sure for a while whether this was something I wanted to do or not. I never wanted to be on TV.
Like I said, journalism had interested me when I was younger, but I wanted to write, I wanted to travel, I wanted to write about what I saw and who I spoke to when I traveled because I never watched TV myself either. I never watched TV news.
And suddenly when I was thrown into it, you know, I used to think that TV news was so cheesy, but then I really do feel now like there is this void that we’re trying to fill and that people can start enjoying TV again if you just have something better to offer than what’s out there.
LAMB: Alyona Minkovski, we are out of time. Thank you very much.
MINKOVSKI: All right. Thank you so much for having me on.