Rudenko alongside Mirror editor Alison Phillips

Time Magazine’s Next Generation Leader gives City of London talk

The London Press Club welcomed one of Time Magazine’s Next Generation Leaders as a lecturer in the City of London on Wednesday night.

The Kyiv Independent’s editor-in-chief Olga Rudenko led one of Britain’s most prestigious lectures on the press at Stationers’ Hall last week.

In an inspiring address Rudenko explained how she, and her team of young journalists, went from being fired from one of the last free Ukrainian newspapers to operating on the frontline of the war.

Offered jobs with other publications but not satisfied with letting the old oligarch-run system win, the team set up their own paper: Kyiv Independent (KI).

Within one week of being fired from their previous jobs the KI had published its first newsletter.

Approached by an oligarch with London property who offered to pay all the paper’s expenses, Rudenko refused.

She instead opted for the support of over ten thousand patrons to provide the financial backing she needed, embodying the democratic values she sought to protect.

Then came February 24th, 2022.

At 4:00am Putin made his speech declaring his operation and at 4:50am Rudenko heard the first explosion.

“That’s it. I’m dying today,” she recalled.

The team dispersed around Ukraine so they couldn’t all be killed in one attack.

But the team made the choice to get back to work, creating weekly video podcasts, newsletters, and a video series on disinformation and Ukrainian history.

With two hours of electricity each day, they swam against the tide of misinformation by candlelight and increased the KI’s Twitter following from 30,000 to over two million in a few months.

But despite their efforts Rudenko felt let down by Western news outlets who were among Putin’s first victories and decried the continual failure to call Putin’s “special military operation” what it was: a violation of its neighbour’s sovereignty.

KI’s own headline was simply: PUTIN DECLARES WAR ON UKRAINE.

Tech giants also bear responsibility, she announced, and to solve misinformation would be like “curing cancer”.

“Whoever has such little knowledge about an issue should not have an opinion about it,” she said.

It is not just truth under attack nor is it just Ukraine, but it was the values of the free world and it was an attack on all of us, she declared.

Since his death in 1998, the Hugh Cudlipp lecture has been given by giants of the press including current and former editors of the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Daily Mail, and legends from broadcasting like Andrew Marr and Jon Snow.

Rudenko was met with a standing ovation and appealed to all UK journalists: keep talking about Ukraine and lead the public interest.

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