Instead of Writing They ‘Bake’

There’s a real revolution in Armenia’s news industry. Previously powerful news agencies are easily yielding their seemingly unshakeable positions to novice online news sites. News agencies no longer dominate the industry; their names, once loudly proclaimed, are gradually heard less, while newspapers prefer to cite newly launched websites. 

As for the guarantee for success, it is known to all — the effective (timely) dissemination of reliable information. It seems that agencies are lacking this effectiveness. But what’s stopping them from duly fulfilling this condition?

There’s the impression that competition is nearly absent among agencies today; a lack of exclusive pieces is noticeable — one copies the news from the other, without even bothering to cite the original source. From any paper, news are “baked”: they’re simply translated and published online, not taking into consideration the target audience. 

Another important circumstance: it’s very dangerous for an agency when it fuses or ardently cooperates with the ruling authorities. Such a news outlet, persuaded or advised by the authorities, doesn’t publish the news it comes across — waiting for “approval” from above —, while alternative sites not constrained by such agreements disseminate the news without delay — getting ahead of all the rest. It’s true, an agency cooperating with the government might be the first to provide official news, but very often it ignores information pertaining to the opposition or doesn’t attend their events, trying to play up to the authorities. And this can strike a serious blow to the news agency’s ratings, as a source of disseminating comprehensive information, which, in turn, leads to a drop in the number of the agency’s subscribers.

Though newly established sites surpass well-known agencies in efficiency and variety of material, they often fall behind when it comes to writing quality pieces. There are sites that publish news, which, upon reading them, you may understand nothing, since the classic structure of reporting the news is absent — this is called the inverted pyramid. At the top of the pyramid is the most important part of the news piece, the lede, then the elaboration of the important information, and at the bottom, the background to the story, the explanation. Our “newly-made” journalists do everything the opposite. For some reason, they first write the background then the essential information. 

It’s also impossible not to notice the personnel policy adopted by news agencies — preferring to hire inexperienced reporters who can’t immediately differentiate “the wet from the dry” and decide what really is the important news. It’s clear that news agency are guided by short-term plans, using cheap labor and not realizing that such strategies might lead to a loss in subscribers. It’s not always that the desire to save money is justified by news agencies, and owners of other media, in general. 

By the way, it should be noted that the choice of headline also plays a huge role. A good headline immediately draws in a reader’s attention, forcing her to read the article. Some Moscow-based news agencies even have separate in-house staff for this very purpose. 

It’s obvious that there is a famine when it comes to the workforce in this sector — low salaries don’t attract knowledgeable, experienced staff, while the packed army of university graduates ready for any job fills this gap. 

The problems are many and diverse. It only remains for us to hope that the profession of news hunting will again become honorable and in demand. 

Tigran Hovhannisyan

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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