Coronavirus, Michael Bloomberg, Mississippi Flooding: Your Monday Briefing

Coronavirus, Michael Bloomberg, Mississippi Flooding: Your Monday Briefing

(Want to get this briefing by email? Here’s the . It focuses on sowing doubt about Western governments and institutions.

Neil MacFarquhar, our national correspondent who wrote the article, was previously The Times’s bureau chief in Moscow. The following conversation with him has been condensed and edited for clarity.

You wrote that one Sputnik station shares a frequency with a smaller jazz station in Kansas City. What’s it like to be listening to Charlie Parker one minute and propaganda the next?

You get roughly, “This is Radio Sputnik, broadcasting live from Washington, D.C., the capital of the divided states of America.”

The station that has the Sputnik frequency is fairly strong, while the station broadcasting jazz is relatively weak. If you’re by the more powerful transmitter, you get Radio Sputnik.

Is this kind of propaganda relatively unprecedented in U.S.-Russian relations?

It depends on your interpretation of “propaganda.” There have previously been radio broadcasts of foreign owned and financed radio stations into the United States.

But part of the change is the more sour mood between the two capitals. Under Vladimir Putin, there has been a much more concerted effort to undermine Western institutions.

The Facebook campaigns focused on the 2016 election and other things we’ve heard about were direct attempts to influence specific groups of people, so it was more manipulative. This is much more subtle.

It’s not old-school propaganda. It’s American hosts — before they got to Sputnik, they were fairly down on the United States from the left or right — trying to paint the U.S. as damaged goods.

Is it jarring compared to other radio stations on the dial?

It’s talk radio, so they’re riffing off headlines about impeachment, Kobe Bryant, coronavirus, that kind of thing. The bureau chief in Washington says they’d like to have a station in New York, but the cost is bigger than their budget allows.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Chris

Thank you
Mark Josephson and Eleanor Stanford provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at

• “The Daily” is off today for the Presidents’ Day holiday. There will be a new episode tomorrow.
• Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Part of a navy (four letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• A. G. Sulzberger, the Times’s publisher, recently received an award from the New England First Amendment Coalition. Read his remarks.

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