Jed Sunden, 39;
#8 Most Influential
When reading the list of Manhattan’s Stuyvesant High School’s notable alumni, you’ll notice KP Media owner Jed Sunden (class of ‘88) listed alongside jazz legend Thelonious Monk (class of ‘35), U.S. President Barack Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod (class of ‘72) and witty writer Gary Shteyngart (class of ’91), among others.
The irony is Stuyvesant is a specialized math, science and technology school. It does not produce journalists or publishers.
But that’s what Sunden ended up doing, eventually providing Kyiv’s English speakers and many Ukrainians with credible print and online information that stood out from the swamp of state and oligarch-controlled media.
It all started in the mid-1990s, when Sunden started the Kyiv Post with a few thousand dollars and a few people.
Today, Sunden’s media empire includes Korrespondent, the leading Russian-language news magazine, and its online companion, korrespondent.net, as well as bigmir.net web portal.
He had a much bigger presence before the 2008 economic crisis, which ultimately triggered the sale of the Kyiv Post and Pink magazine, as well as the closure of Novynar and Afisha magazines. He still has, however, an estimated 250 employees.
The New York native arrived in Kyiv in 1993 for a research project after graduating with a history degree from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“The Berlin Wall was coming down and the fall of communism was the biggest story in the world when I was deciding what to do at college.”
– Jed Sunden.
He studied Soviet history because “the Berlin Wall was coming down and the fall of communism was the biggest story in the world when I was deciding what to do at college.”
He expected to return to the United States for further studies after conducting research in Ukraine. Instead, he heard that Ukraine’s new airline needed an in-flight magazine and, after producing that for a year, he used his savings of $8,000 to launch the Kyiv Post in 1995, his flagship publication for 14 years until he sold it in 2009 amid a sharp economic downturn.
That paper led the reporting of enough controversial issues that in 2000, the government of President Leonid Kuchma refused to let him back into the country after a holiday in the U.S. Only high-level U.S. government intervention cleared his entry while he waited in Vienna for the next in-bound Kyiv flight.
Sunden has always stood for editorial independence and believes it’s also a good business practice.
Owners and publishers who use their publications to pursue a political agenda or interfere with journalists’ independent judgments “tend to lose the trust of readers,” he said.
But Sunden weighs in often enough with his own political opinions. He is a libertarian who believes in low taxes, minimal government and free speech.
He also has waged an unending campaign against Ukraine’s lingering vestiges of communism – including seeking the removal of all monuments to Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin. He has not succeeded yet, but he hasn’t given up.
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