Murdoch’s National Geographic Channel and the Old Believers of Alaska

Продолжаем информировать наших читателей о ситуации, сложившейся вокруг проекта документального шоу о старообрядцах на Аляске, который затеял National Geographic Channel, принадлежащий Мердоку, не имеющий никакого отношения к журналу National Geographic.

29 января 2013 года в Николаевске, Аляска состоялся кастинг, который проводила Lisa Blake вместе с Jarrett Lambo. Они выгнали с кастинга всю местную аляскинскую прессу. А сами старообрядцы приняли этих визитеров с Восточного побережья очень неласково.

Подробности этих событий читайте ниже в статье Naomi Klouda из Homer Tribune с комментариями к этой статье и в материале журналиста Alan Mairson.


National Geographic gets cold reception from Old Believers

• Press kicked out of casting call

By Naomi Klouda
Homer Tribune

church1-250x166Russian Old Believer church at Nikolaevsk Homer Tribune file photo

When a pair of directors from the National Geographic reality-series visited the Old Believer village of Nikolaevsk Tuesday evening, only about a dozen people attended. Word had gone out that even though it is the National Geographic Channel, the producers’ aim may be to sensationalize Old Believer lives as had been done with another religious group, the Hutterites of Montana.

Nikolaevsk, population just under 350 according to the last census count, sits at a high elevation on North Fork Road between Homer and Anchor Point. It is a private Old Believer village established in 1967. The travels of the group from Russia, as well as the story of the founding of Nikolaevsk, is told in a 1972 article in National Geographic.

Two of those in attendance at the Nikolaevsk school during the casting call, one who works at the Homer Tribune and one covering the event for the Homer News, were asked to leave the meeting early on.

Sam Kuzmin, raised in Nikolaevsk, is the Homer Tribune’s designer.
“They said they don’t want the press there – they wanted the casting call to be more intimate without the press,” Kuzmin said. “They wanted it to be confidential, talking to them, which makes no sense for me to leave, because half of them were my family.”

Lisa Blake, one of National Geographic’s producers, had given interviews to the media while still in New York City and planning her trip to Homer. She put out an announcement for Russian Old Believers to attend the casting call and wanted news accounts to explain plans for the show’s series. It is to run for three seasons and the intention, Blake said, is to tell the Old Believers’ stories while being respectful of their beliefs.

Homer has four primary villages, all located in remote ares: Kachemak-Selo, Voznesenka, and Razdolna are located 25 miles down East End Road overlooking the Fox River Valley and the hat flats that long served cattlemen in the region. The fourth village is Nikolaevsk. Blake sees Homer as something of a “hub” for Old Believers.

“We’re looking for families with big personalities and an interesting story to tell. There’s no preconceived story line – it is documentary style. We are not creating anything; it is simply to learn about and explore the people in Homer,” Blake said at the time.

The idea came from National Geographic Channel research from New York City. The show would follow the format of depicting other private religious communities that National Geo did in the past on the Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites, Blake said.

“Because it’s National Geographic, our approach is very respectful – this is not Jersey Shore. The National Geographic Society would never let that happen,” Blake said.

But according to Maryland-based journalist Alan Mairson, who has posted the complaints made by the Hutterites about their reportedly shoddy treatment by National Geographic, that’s what might lie ahead for the Russian Old Believers.

He wrote a public letter to the residents of Homer warning that the Hutterites have filed complaints over their treatment with National Geographic Channel President David Lyle. As yet, they have received no apology and no response. Producers staged scenes that embarrassed and gave false impressions of the Hutterites, Mairson said.

There are other discrepancies as well.

“Every TV production has a ‘show runner,’ who is the person in charge. The dictator of the production. The show runner for National Geographic’s TV series about the Old Believers will be a guy named Jarrett Lambo. That’s why it’s troubling to discover that Jarrett Lambo was one of the producers of Jersey Shore.

Why hire Jarrett Lambo if the production is to bear no resemblance to Jersey Shore,” he asks.

The post mistress of Nikolaevsk, Kira Tipikin, a member of the Old Believers, said the production team was asked about the Hutterites at the Tuesday night casting call.

kira-tipikin-395997_1020022-250x250Kira Tipikin  

“Those two said they never saw the show. We said well ‘You do work for National Geographic and that show aired.’ They said ‘We never seen it and never heard about it,’” Tipikin said. “They seemed to be more interested in us.”

Tipikin occupies a high profile position at the Nikolaevsk Post Office. She’s been filmed many times through the years, most recently by a group of California college students working on an assignment for which they will be graded, she said.

“They filmed me in the post office. I have a sewing machine set up and in my free time I pull out my sewing,” Tipikin explained. “They liked to watch what I do throughout the day. They like our dresses and clothing. I don’t mind if they take my picture.”

After attending the meeting with National Geographic, Tipikin said she isn’t opposed to the idea of interviewing for the show but she wants time to ponder the idea.

“I’m still thinking about the show, but I’m still not sure. They interviewed some people and will take that back to do the final call to see if that’s what they want to do.”

Of the dozen who attended Tuesday’s meeting, a few of them were non Russians who live among the Old Believers. National Geographic “interviewed them also,” Tipikin said.

“We asked them if they were expecting more people from the other Russian villages, since no one showed up from there. They said they would like like hear from them.”

A snow storm that blew in several inches and made driving hazardous hit Monday and Tuesday throughout the day.
National Geo Director Blake has not yet responded to questions from the Homer Tribune.

Contact the writer

Posted by Newsroom on Jan 30th, 2013 and filed under Headline News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

6 Responses for “National Geographic gets cold reception from Old Believers”

Dolores Holub says:
January 30, 2013 at 1:03 pm

I can appreciate the Old Believers of Nikolaevk being cautious about how they will be portrayed to an outside audience. If National Geographic proceeds with the show, I hope they treat them with the respect that they deserve.

James Mason says:
January 30, 2013 at 7:26 pm

Who the Old Believers are is the Old Believers’ business. If they want to make a movie about who they are and how they live then they’ll do it. But no Alaskan should have to deal with outsiders interfering with their culture. It’s bad enough that rural and Native Alaska is reported to the world by people who’ve hardly been to the Bush. If Nat Geo’s Blake doesn’t want to talk to the press then there’s a real attitude problem afoot.

Charles Renfro says:
February 3, 2013 at 9:13 pm

Jarrett Lambo is the person in charge of this tv show. He needs to speak up.

Dean Cully says:
February 1, 2013 at 1:29 pm

The National Geographic Channel in the USA is a joint venture between National Geographic Television and Film, and Fox Cable Networks (according to Wikipedia).

This is rather telling, considering my involvement with their production of “Alaska Wingmen” (notwithstanding the featured pilots who happened to be women… but who cares? Clichè rules the day) during the summer of 2010, wherein they seriously missed the point on how a Learjet flight crew (consisting of 2 pilots) works together for the safe and efficient operation of the airplane. In the end, considering how ridiculously they created high drama out of routine operations, I’m glad that my presence was shrouded in anonymity and almost completely ignored as the copilot of the featured air ambulance Learjet, saving me embarassment.

It was clear that the producers were far more interested in personalities than in accuracy or documentary and educational portrayal, two concepts that are not antithetical to entertainment, as demonstrated by National Geographic television specials of yore. Of course, this is to be expected nowadays if a program is to attract shortened attention spans and advertising revenue, but the lack of attention to reality was not necessary–indeed, it missed a significant element of the human story they were presumably attempting to convey; that is, people working together as a team in a complex and demanding endeavor–instead, becoming a lazy, sadly hilarious but forgettable manufactured drama.

What once was an assurance of documentary quality, the National Geographic imprimatur, is now little more than a brand name roulette wheel of “Reality”-TV production values; to the Old Believers I say, if you think you’re feeling lucky, let them in and hope you get a thoughtful and accurate portrayal, but the odds of getting something on the order of “Amish Mafia” or some other sensational pseudo-educational treatment from the sausage factory of television fare are considerable.

Alfred Green says:
February 4, 2013 at 5:51 am

***Dean, National Geographic is solely responsible for NatGeo’s content. Though FOXNews owns 67 percent of the channel, its involvement is limited to expertise on distribution, marketing, and ad sales.

Dear National Geographic says:
February 1, 2013 at 3:44 pm

Dear National Geographic,
Since the Old Believer community is not interested…How about a reality show about a small town City Council “Unethical Beasts” and the irate community they do not serve? Might be an interesting one, might also be a good example for other communities who need to take back their town from self interested (not really)public servants.


In Alaska, the Old Believers send our Society a message

by Alan Mairson on January 31, 2013

National_Geographic_Old_Believers_cold_reception_Homer_TribuneRead the whole thing here.

This article raises a host of new questions:

How is it possible that two producers from National Geographic could begin work on a “docu-series” that’s almost identical to Meet The Hutterites, yet have no idea the series even exists? Given the controversy surrounding what happened last year in Montana, why didn’t the two producers say something like: Yes, of course we know about the Hutterite series. David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel, has insisted that all producers watch it, study it, and learn about what went wrong with that production. We have learned. And we stand before you tonight with a solemn pledge that as we produce this series about the Old Believers, we will not repeat the mistakes of the past.

Why did National Geographic producers tell the media to leave the meeting? If the “docu-series” is, in fact, a documentary, and there are no “reality” TV stunts awaiting the Old Believers, then why is it necessary to whisper behind closed doors? Why the secrecy? Why not relieve the community’s fears by opening up the doors and windows to let the sun shine in?

Does the National Geographic Channel think the painful legacy of Meet The Hutterites is going to simply fade away?

We’ll keep you posted.


Kathy Stahl •

These people need to know that the Society took a culture, the Hutterite culture, and totally ripped it to shreds with what THEY wanted to portray. It was a travesty and the Old Believers need to Run, run, run…..or at least somebody get to these people and help them deal with the disaster knocking at their door…..I know, I have witnessed first hand what The National Geograpic Society are capable of….it is disgusting.

Alan Mairson Mod > Kathy Stahl •

Kathy — I’ve been told that this production is going to be different. That National Geographic Television – the TV production arm of the National Geographic Society — is producing this show for the National Geographic Channel (majority owned by News Corp). Whereas Meet The Hutterites was produced by the Channel for the Channel. The idea, I guess, is that the standards and quality control are different; that the Society adheres to higher standards than does the Channel. That this time, you can trust us.

Consider me (very) skeptical.

Thanks for your message… and for stopping by.


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