Jour­nalism pro­fessor Nicholas Daniloff, a former United Press Inter­na­tional and U.S. News & World Report reporter, cov­ered the Cold War from Wash­ington, London, Paris and Moscow for 30 years. In 1986, he was arrested in Moscow and held for 13 days in a KGB prison, accused of espi­onage. He’s been teaching at North­eastern since 1989. His memoir, “Of Spies and Spokesmen: My Life as a Cold War Cor­re­spon­dent,” came out last year.

Tell us about your new book. How long have you been working on it and why did you decide to write it now?

I entered the world of jour­nalism in 1956 after col­lege by joining the Wash­ington Post as a copyboy. During the next 30 years I cov­ered the Cold War from Wash­ington, London, Paris and Moscow for United Press Inter­na­tional and U.S. News and World Report. Since 1989 I have been teaching jour­nalism at North­eastern. Some time ago, I decided to put down in writing what I expe­ri­enced during my career before I forgot the details. It took me seven years while teaching to write my book, “Of Spies and Spokesmen: My Life as a Cold War Cor­re­spon­dent,” and more than a year to find a sym­pa­thetic pub­lisher. Finally, in March 2008 the book came out.

How did you become inter­ested in cov­ering Soviet Russia?

I come from a Russian-​​American family, and an editor at The Wash­ington Post told me I should cover the Cold War because of this family background.

Con­cerning your impris­on­ment by the KGB, was that your most har­rowing expe­ri­ence as a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent? How did you handle it?

Yes, it was shocking to be arrested and hand­cuffed without warning on a public street in Moscow. Once in prison you have no con­trol over your fate, and the whole trick was to sur­vive. My wife was a great help in keeping my spirits up, and, of course, I am grateful to Pres­i­dent Reagan for his inter­ven­tion in the matter, which became a big inter­na­tional scandal.

You taught jour­nalism to stu­dents in former republics of the Soviet Union. Do you find dif­fer­ences between those stu­dents and Amer­ican jour­nalism students?

I taught jour­nalism in Azer­baijan and Uzbek­istan, giving lec­tures there in Eng­lish and Russian. Under­grad­u­ates in both those coun­tries were fluent in three lan­guages: their local lan­guage, Eng­lish and Russian. They were better dressed than Amer­ican under­grad­u­ates, never wore base­ball caps in class, and more polite. How­ever, Amer­ican stu­dents are more relaxed, more inquis­i­tive, more assertive.

Are they able to pub­lish their sto­ries in these countries?

Pub­li­ca­tion of sto­ries crit­i­cizing the polit­ical lead­er­ship was not per­mitted but descrip­tions of some soci­etal ills (not pros­ti­tu­tion) was possible.

Russia is itself going through a rocky time with tran­si­tion from Putin to Medvedev. Tell us your thoughts.

Russia has been drifting back to its old tra­di­tions of author­i­tar­i­anism. I am dis­ap­pointed but not sur­prised. When I left Moscow in 1986 after a five-​​year assign­ment, I warned not to expect democ­racy to take hold in Russia for two gen­er­a­tions or 40 years. I guess I was too opti­mistic. Russia is an enor­mous country, dif­fi­cult to govern. Its lead­er­ship has tra­di­tion­ally been wary of its diverse pop­u­la­tions of more than 100 dif­ferent ethnic groups. Not sur­pris­ingly, Russia feels that a strong hand—not a demo­c­ratic hand—is needed to ensure sta­bility and eco­nomic devel­op­ment. Today I would like to see an inde­pen­dent judi­ciary and inde­pen­dent media develop in Russia even before free and fair elections.

What are some of the biggest chal­lenges facing the press today?

Prob­ably the biggest chal­lenge facing the press today is finan­cial. Falling adver­tising rev­enue is forcing news­pa­pers to make drastic cut­backs in expen­di­tures, lay­offs, and clo­sure of for­eign bureaus. Also dis­turbing is the loss of cred­i­bility by the press, which has been caused by inac­cu­rate, sen­sa­tional, and intru­sive reporting.

It appears that print jour­nalism is at a cross­roads. How can the jour­nalism industry find oppor­tu­nity now and in the future?

Amer­ican jour­nalism is in tran­si­tion but it is not going to dis­ap­pear. You might ask: Why study jour­nalism? It is an increas­ingly com­plex field. The Internet is becoming more promi­nent as a con­veyer of news. Com­mu­nity news­pa­pers, which play a vital role in informing local juris­dic­tions, will sur­vive and some will flourish. Tele­vi­sion and cable will con­tinue to be a main source of news for the mass of our people. And a small number of jour­nal­ists with hidden entre­pre­neurial skills will sur­prise us with new ideas and devel­op­ments yet unborn.