A Subjective Opinion on Objective News Media

On television and in other media today, and in private conversations, the accusation “You’re not objective” can be heard directed at this or that news outlet or journalist.  Various meanings can be construed beneath this simple phrase — “You’ve sold out,” “You’ve been commissioned,” “You’re distorting facts,” “You’re not professional.”

The opposition media, to this or that extent, accuses pro-government news outlets and authorities of not being objective: pro-opposition public figures and the press argue that news media, television in particular, is almost completely controlled by different government bodies, which results in non-objective news stories in TV companies’ news segments.


Nevertheless, is there such a thing as objective news in Armenia’s news media industry? The question arises because some news agencies present such claims. But before addressing this issue, perhaps it’s necessary to define what kind of news is considered objective. Some specialists who are engaged in this issue believe that it’s generally impossible to be “objective” because the selection of news topics and facts, the journalist’s life experience and mood, and the selection of words are already subjective, and as such, it’s not possible to write absolutely objective news.


But let’s leave this “conversation” to those specialists and let’s try to view Armenia’s news media industry, based on the most concise and widespread notion of objective news. Objective is the news that, through citing facts, impartially portrays the true reality.


Biased News


So that we understand the scope of news outlets making claims to being objective, let’s cite some examples of news outlets which don’t make such claims and overtly declare or openly display their partiality. To better picture this let’s cite examples that are more pronounced, but let’s not artificially add an equal sign between the noted examples.


Local daily Haykakan Jamanak (“Armenian Times”) is one such unique print news outlet which in at least the last five years has not had an aversion its pronounced pro-opposition stance and the bias arising from it. Haykakan Jamanak is the most consumed among print media; it is fulfilling the order of the pro-opposition segment of society, and doesn’t hide its political “sympathies.”


It’s no coincidence that printed a lot in Haykakan Jamanak are publicizing articles, which are the crux of the paper. This is “opinion journalism” and opinions always contain subjectivity. But I believe, unlike the next few examples, it has an important, special characteristic in objective news media: it is the truthful portrayal of reality principally from the angle which the paper has chosen; that is, to counteract the pro-government propaganda that possesses incomparably greater resources, to inform the public about the flaws of the ruling elite and the system, to inspire its readers and prompt them to change reality.


Let’s bring the next example of not objective, biased news from the TV industry, since the clearly pro-government print press is not consumed, cannot form public opinion and consequently is outside the range of our interest. Many examples can be cited, but perhaps the most vivid are Kentron and H1 (Armenia’s Public Television). 


In the case of Kentron TV, there’s only one person pulling the strings, Gagik Tsarukyan, with his numerous businesses and still only one party. The TV station doesn’t conceal its partiality, allocating the lion’s share of its news stories to its immediate customer, his businesses and his party (Prosperous Armenia). The vantage point of the depiction of reality here is Gagik Tsarukyan and his activities. 


I should confess, the TV station fulfills its order 100 percent. Gagik Tsarukyan’s every meeting is portrayed as a formidable event. Every cent spent on “charitable” events is stuffed down TV viewers’ throats. Special attention is paid to the various medals and diplomas Mr. Tsarukyan has received from different institutions and academies. The reason for my drawing attention to Kentron TV and Gagik Tsarukyan is that the bias of other TV companies is not constructed chiefly around one person.


H1 is probably the most criticized for not being objective, for which it has its objective reason: a significant portion of the “public” television’s budget comes from taxpayers. It seems that this fact should have imparted a certain amount of independence and objectivity for H1, but in fact the exact opposite is true. A TV company fed by the state budget is a weapon of propaganda for the ruling elite and different branches of the authorities. Coverage of parents of soldiers killed during peace time and the weekly demonstrations by individuals and organizations supporting them are enough to prove H1’s overtly biased attitude. 


The list of openly biased news outlets is great: Yerkir, Yerkir Media, H2 and so on. The purpose of examining the aforementioned examples was to show that there are news outlets that don’t meet one of the important components of “objective news,” having an impartial point of view, and fulfill the order of this or that political party, authority, ruling elite, oligarch or reader having oppositional views. But there are news outlets in Armenia’s media landscape that claim they are objective.


Some editors about say this with their lips, while others try to appear as such. Next we will try to examine these news outlets and arrive at some conclusions.


To be continued…


Hambardzum Hambardzumyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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