Sergey Ivannikov is the founder and CEO of Russian American Media, a member of Solving Sacramento. (Photo by Fred Greaves)

An interview with Sergey Ivannikov, founder and CEO

Q&A by Dina Bugayevskaya

Solving Sacramento, a journalism collaborative, launched in early 2022 with the goal of covering the region’s most pressing issues. Up first: the lack of affordable housing. The collaboration includes seven local media outlets, including Russian American Media, and one civic-engagement organization. It is currently funded by the Solutions Journalism Network and fiscally sponsored by the Local Media Foundation.

Russian American Media was founded in 1997, and now includes: Russian Time Magazine, Russian Community Directory (a reference for more than 1 million Californians) and Russian Observer Newspaper (a Slavic-community e-newspaper). 

Russian American Media Founder and CEO Sergey Ivannikov tells us about his organization’s involvement in the collaborative.

Why is Russian American Media in the Solving Sacramento collaborative?

During my 25 years working at a multimedia company, I developed great friendships with many organizations, including other media outlets. I have a great respect for the leadership at Capital Public Radio, Sacramento Business Journal, Sacramento News & Review, Sacramento Observer and other multicultural media channels like D’primeramano magazine, Univision, World Journal and Latino Magazine. When they approached me to be part of Solving Sacramento, an organization that is focused on helping the community, I gladly said “yes” because I am already doing this.

Why does coverage of affordable housing in Sacramento matter?

When I first came to America, my first question was: Where am I going to live? For me, it was a big deal when I purchased my first house. I know there are a lot of questions, a lot of requirements that people need, especially right now, with this unstable economy, inflation and shortage of housing. There are no simple answers to how to fix this problem. We’re talking to politicians, mayors of cities, and some researchers and nonprofit organizations that help with housing. Nobody can give us a simple answer, but we can start a discussion and see what kind of resources are available in our region and provide this information to the community. Together we can solve this housing problem. We must.

Why is a solutions journalism approach important to your work?

In this great country, we have the luxury of speaking openly about important issues. Using our media channels, using our Solving Sacramento collaborative, together we can find some answers — or at least improve the questions — that the community really needs.

What other innovative projects or collaborations is RAM involved in?

Each of our publications is a vehicle to deliver information about businesses, about nonprofits, about government affairs. But, at the end of the day, each person would like to meet face-to-face with other people. That’s why we have six big community events that bring different audiences together for partnership, for networking and for problem-solving in the community. 

This is a Russian-speaking Community Legislative Reception in the state Capitol, a great opportunity to introduce community leadership to the legislative members. The International Kids Festival brings together more than 15,000 people in the park. We have more than 22 ethnic groups performing onstage and more than 100 businesses and nonprofit organizations who share their resources, tips, and cultural content to attendees. Then we have the Multicultural Business and Career Expo; it brings together more than 100 companies, government organizations and nonprofits, small businesses, who would like to showcase their products and services and connect with the community. Our signature gala is The Best, by Russian-Speaking Community Business Awards Ceremony & Gala, featuring Miss Russian California. This year, we will dedicate this event to Ukraine. The name of our contest is going to be Miss Ukraine California. One of my favorite events is Christmas Lights for underprivileged children. It’s a red carpet Christmas celebration for children from foster homes, that includes a festive dinner, cookie decorations, fake snow, jump houses, children performance, mascots from sports teams and limo rides to ornamented houses. This charity program makes a lasting difference in the lives of children in-need. It at least temporarily breaks the grip of poverty by reassuring underprivileged children that they are worthy of love, care, and a chance for happiness despite the economic and personal hardships.

Tell us about your role with RAM.

I am the founder and CEO of Russian American Media. This year, we will celebrate 25 years of success.

Tell us an interesting tidbit about your organization.

What I like about Russian American Media is it is a unique vehicle to open nearly any door to any organization, nonprofit or governmental agency.  Every day, we meet people in our office or in their offices and share success stories. And that’s exactly what we do in our publications, we share success stories. There is a lot of negativity in our lives, in our media — we don’t want to compete in that saturated space. Our goal is to create positive events, positive articles, positive publications with all the information that can create success in families, in businesses and in relationship with God. That is our mission, and that is what I like about this company. And that’s what my team likes about this company, that’s why they join us and work together as partners.