DeSales Grad Lands Exclusive with Russian Nobel Peace Prize Winner

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DeSales Grad Lands Exclusive with Russian Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Author: Kim Knuutila/Monday, October 18, 2021/Categories: Special Event

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By Buck Ryan 

When news broke on Friday morning, Oct. 8, that a Russian newspaper editor was sharing in the Nobel Peace Prize, a DeSales graduate sent a Facebook Messenger note to a colleague in Russia: “Do you know Mr. Muratov?”

Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta (New Newspaper), based in Moscow, is sharing in the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize with Filipino journalist Maria Ressa, who has been arrested multiple times in her battles with the Philippines government.

The Nobel Peace Prize comes with a gold medal and a share of $1.14 million.

The Messenger question posted at 8:34 a.m. was answered quickly by Oksi Lantt, a multimedia producer and innovative educator based in St. Petersburg, Russia: “He is the most respected editor in Russia. I'm not sure he remembers me, but my students worked and work with him.”

Less than an hour later Lantt messaged, “Got his mobile number,” and then told DeSales graduate Buck Ryan (‘74) that she had set up an interview for four hours later. 

“So we need to maestro the article,” Lantt said, referring to the Maestro Concept story planning method that Ryan created and introduced to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in 1993.

Ryan, born in New York City, grew up on Corinthia Street in Lockport, went to St. Patrick’s School and was inducted into the DeSales Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame in 2017.

He met Lantt 12 years ago when she was part of a visiting delegation of Russian journalists to his journalism school at the University of Kentucky.

Ryan served as the eighth director in the 107-year history of UK’s journalism school, then served as the first executive director of its Scripps Howard First Amendment Center.

“I got my first official start in journalism when Sister Dorothy appointed me editor of The Lance, DeSales High School’s student newspaper for my senior year,” Ryan said. “She arranged for me to attend a weeklong journalism workshop at Syracuse in the summer after my junior year. I’ll always be grateful to her and DeSales for launching my journalism career.”

Ryan worked as a reporter and copy editor at the Buffalo Evening News and the Niagara Falls Gazette before spending most of his journalism career at the Chicago Tribune, where he rose to assistant metro editor.

He developed the Maestro Concept when he was a professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

To “maestro” is to make sure that the photo-headline-caption-and-lead of an article, which Ryan considers the first four “paragraphs,” hook readers and keep them reading.

Here’s the headline published Monday on the journalism world’s premier news website,

“Nobel Peace Prize winner Dmitry Muratov has taken casualties in Russia’s war on the free press. Muratov has lost 6 staffers to murder since ‘93. He will give the award money to charity.”

And here’s the lead:

How exactly does a newspaper editor win a Nobel Peace Prize and live to tell the tale?

First, you survive a war, then you get to tell everyone your own breaking news with a headline like this packaged with a newsroom photo on the paper’s website:

“The whole Novaya Gazeta and everyone who worked and works there. Alive and dead. This is their prize.”

Ryan is pleased with the response to his article co-authored with Lantt that provided the Poynter Institute with an exclusive interview.

“These days you measure success by likes and retweets,” Ryan said. “There are many of those, but when you get retweeted by PolitiFact, home of the Truth-O-Meter, you can declare victory. One comment on a retweet struck me: ‘Talk about brave.’” 

After organizing the Kentucky wing of the 2009 U.S. media tour for Lantt, other Russian journalists, a Russian journalism professor and a translator, the delegation returned the favor by inviting Ryan to do workshops in their homeland.

On a 12-day trip to Russia in June 2010, Ryan taught his Maestro Concept approach to story planning in three Russian cities, including presentations to the Russian Union of Journalists in Kirov, the Press Development Institute-Siberia in Barnaul, and the Association of Independent Regional Publishers in Rostov-on-Don.

In April 2013, Ryan was invited to Lyon, France, to recap his work with Russian journalists and journalism professors over three years at a weeklong conference organized by the International Research Exchanges (IREX), based in Washington, D.C.

In 2014, following a stint as a visiting professor at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Ryan co-authored an article, “Civic arms race: To Russia, with love for young voters,” with a senior lecturer at the university’s journalism school.

Their article focused on the rise in popularity of Moscow mayoral candidate Alexei Navalny, now in prison and recognized by Amnesty International as “a prisoner of conscience.”

Ryan’s last visit to Russia came in September 2016 during the U.S. presidential election race when he taught the Maestro Concept to investigative journalists in Russia on a two-week trip that took him to four cities (Moscow, Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg and Krasnoyarsk) across three time zones.

You can read Ryan’s Poynter article here:

Photo caption 1: As Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of Novaya Gazeta, greets well-wishers in Moscow after winning a share of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, DeSales graduate Buck Ryan (‘74) was working with a Russian colleague to land an exclusive interview with him. (Photo courtesy of Novaya Gazeta)

Photo caption 2: Buck Ryan receives an "honorary doctorate in Russian media studies" from Victor Yukechev, director of the Press Development Institute-Siberia, in 2010 upon concluding a two-day workshop in Barnaul, Russia, on Ryan’s Maestro Concept story planning method.




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DeSales Catholic School LogoDeSales is a regional Catholic elementary school, located in the Town of Lockport NY, within the Diocese of Buffalo. The school is a designated STREAM school, a center of excellence that inspires individual students to reach their greatest potential, both inside and outside the classroom, while providing students with the fundamental building blocks to be innovative, critical-thinkers, and responsible future leaders.