His hobby is reading The New York Times and Kommersant. He likes U2. His favorite movie is “Day Watch” by Timur Bekmambetov. The first thing he does in the morning is turn on his laptop, then he makes some coffee. What he hates most is boredom. His friends call him “Kadyyyyyr”. Introducing Kadyr Toktogulov, a product of Journalism Department ’03. Currently, Kadyr works as a correspondent for The Dow Jones Newswires in Almaty, and also writes stories for The Wall Street Journal.
Kadyr, in journalism, there has always been a tension between getting the story first and getting it right. What do you value the most?
Getting it right is the most important. Though if you get it first and right at the same time, you are doing your job correctly.
Mr. Chesterton once said that journalism consists largely of saying "Lord Jones is dead" to the people who never knew Lord Jones was alive. What is journalism for you?
Journalism is really about getting the truth to your readers. It is not about pleasing the people you write about. The public deserves to know the truth about their governments, leaders, public officials and things affecting their lives and future.
Even Napoleon Bonaparte believed that hostile newspapers are to be feared more than a thousand bayonets…
News needs to shape the future. Freedom of speech is what will help a society, including ours, tackle challenges and find solutions to the problems it is facing. It is a fundamental part of any prosperous society.
The path of a journalist in Central Asia is a not an easy one. I think “per aspera ad astra” best reflects what it means to be a real journalist in this region. Do you agree?
I agree, because in this region, journalism has often been used by politicians and government officials for their own benefit, without consideration of the long term implications of a society lacking freedom of speech. Working for a foreign news organization provides protection from big risks, although presently, journalists’ impact on events of this region is quite small.
You covered major news events in Kyrgyzstan, including the parliamentary and presidential elections, and the Tulip Revolution. You reported on the bird flu outbreak in southeast Turkey, enlightened us about the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, followed the parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan, described the uprising in Andĳan, and informed us of the launch of the Soyuz TMA-8 from Baikonour. It all sounds very exciting…
My editors and I choose what issues and events to cover. Anything that is interesting to the world and has the potential to shape the future needs to be covered. All of the assignments you mentioned helped me grow as a journalist, taught me a lot, and gave me confidence in my ability. Covering the launch of the Soyuz TMA-8 from Baikonour was by far the best assignment. It gave me an opportunity to look back at my childhood dreams, one of which was to become a cosmonaut. During those four days at the spaceport, I felt a child-like happiness seeing the astronauts and the launch pad.
You recently participated in the townterview with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and AUCA students. What was your role there?
My role was to help the audience ask their questions to Secretary Clinton. I also had to make sure that I would not be accused of favoritism by giving the microphone to the people I know, so I chose questions at random. It was a great experience to be part of the townterview. She is an impressive leader.
So how did you choose this path?
I was curious about journalism and it was my curiosity that led me to it. When I started high school, I met a couple of guys running a radio station in my hometown of Osh. I got involved in a few radio programs there. That was enough for me to choose journalism as a career after school.
What qualities should a person have to become a good journalist?
Curiosity, commitment to the truth, and above all else, independent thinking.
So how do you look back on your time at AUCA?
Critical thinking and academic freedom are what I loved most about AUCA. The whole atmosphere of the University was always fun and unrestrictive. It is the freest university in the region. Being able to meet great friends and just hang out in the cafeteria between classes is very special. I always tell people that I am an AUCA alumnus and that it is the best place to get an undergraduate degree. I would like to donate more than I have in the past, and I will try to arrange that soon.
Kadyr, what's next?
I am coming back to Kyrgyzstan. I have lived in Kazakhstan for almost 5 years and it is time to start heading home.