Two TV stations in Armenia pay attention to the news published by the local press — ArmNews and Kentron TV. Both have correct and incorrect solutions in form and only incorrect solutions in content. ArmNews reads newspapers at 10 am. I don’t know who the viewers are at that time, but it’s undoubtedly better than in the evening — when AR TV used to report on news published by the press. It seems AR TV has since given up on this.
ArmNews’ news digests are brief; it doesn’t talk about the article in its entirety and the emphasis on the pieces it selects isn’t bad. The entire process lasts 3 to 4 minutes, but the image of the article being cited isn’t shown. Instead, the front page of the paper is shown, where often there are more interesting articles than the one being cited. In this case, Kentron TV’s segment “What are the newspapers writing?” is right to display the article that is being cited. The rest of what this program does, however, can be considered poor quality work — in both content and technical terms.
On Mar. 31, this program reported news from local newspapers Azg (3 articles), 168 Zham and Hayots Ashkharh with headlines such as “France hasn’t put on its agenda the matter of forfeiting its position in the Minsk Group” and “There will be fewer microbuses [in Armenia].” What killed me was the announcement from the same issue of Azg made at the end of the program: Arthur Abraham will defend his title in Kiel, Germany, against a Polish boxer. The TV broadcaster wished the German Armenian boxer success. And these were the headlines from Tuesday to Saturday at 12:30 pm the program opted to feature. The majority of readers at most watched this news out of the corner of their eyes; furthermore, a considerable number of them had already read the articles of interest to them. And I haven’t yet said what sensational articles were published that day — for example, the program cited a piece on the Consumer Price Index published in 168 Zham; meanwhile, the newspaper had published a piece titled “3 Million Friends” on charges of corruption against Armenia’s Prosecutor General. Furthermore, Haykakan Jamanak (“Armenian Times”) published a piece in which it was known that 101 people from Javakheti, Georgia, were registered as eligible voters at a single address in Yerevan. This was a newsworthy discovery.
In its Apr. 3 program, ArmNews included news from the following newspapers: Yerkir (“Many in Iran don’t know about the Armenian Genocide”), Hayots Ashkharh (“8 political parties and 1 alliance of political parties will participate in the parliamentary elections”), Joghovurd (“The village mayor’s 3 sons in a fight in Tavush marz”), Jamanak (“An Armenian is murdered in Leningrad province”), and Azg (“The final work on technical upgrades to the Stepanakert airport is being carried out”).
Before I move on to making generalizations, I have one question: during this heated election campaign period, who are the consumers of the aforementioned news? There are some people of course, but television is not for “some people.” Instead, Yerkir, for example, published an impressionable interview with MP and election candidate Samvel Aleksanyan (“I’m going to win, I’m going to party, and I’m going to appoint [outspoken opposition candidate] Nikol [Pashinyan] as the toastmaster”); Joghovurd had found out that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan’s son-in-law, the vice-chair of the Republican Party of Armenia’s central campaign headquarters, had nothing to do; and Jamanak had turned its attention to the shifts in people at the no. 20 electoral district — and very successfully. I didn’t find a better piece from Hayots Ashkharh, but this paper shouldn’t even be cited. It’s an information starting point for TV. You note it only on the day when the Central Electoral Commission completes candidate registrations. You say it with the day’s news and begin your work accordingly.
Now for the most important. Why do TV companies turn their attention to stories published by the print media? First, they don’t simply pay attention to stories, but rather turn the press into a television product. Armenian TV companies make poor judgements in deciding which pieces to quote and this is an old custom — I think AR TV began this tradition with its mostly innocent and inoffensive references. Naturally it didn’t stand up to examination. Television has to cite articles that show a position. Information is necessary, but the press has its position on any information. Without a position, information is merely news, which is simply shameful for a TV company, that it takes it from the press. It should’ve been the first to circulate that news. In a normal country, TV companies shouldn’t be following up on the print press.
And if, nevertheless, all you’re doing is conveying information then it should be exclusive information — the paper’s entire efforts have to be apparent in that information. French papers were the first to convey the details of the life of the Toulouse terrorist and Euronews was gladly citing them. The news published by newspapers cited by Armenian TV stations, however, don’t show the face of the newspaper — the print news outlet’s efforts aren’t apparent in that which is cited. After all, the TV company cannot explain the news not being credible. That’s the work of the paper; it represents its efforts. And if it turns out that it was mistaken and there’s a need for retraction? Can you imagine the awkward situation you’d find yourself in? Consequently, the truth is, not the news but the news outlet’s position on the news should be cited. And, usually, one piece of news has to be cited and the position of newspapers having different political orientations has to be apparent.
Second, why does the article being cited have to be emphasized on the screen? Because the viewer has to focus — she’s not listening to the radio and is not obliged to believe only by listening. She also has to read. Essentially, the news digest is broadcast for the hard of hearing but without sign language interpretation. You say that “Many in Iran don’t know about the Armenian Genocide” (ArmNews, Apr. 3)? Show me the article; let us see it.
Third, the news digest is not advertisement for the press. But you’re making it into an ad with the most successful information pieces. Your measure is evident in your work; you’re downgrading the press, which even without this doesn’t have huge consumption. Don’t forget that a newspaper is a business. Meanwhile, the news digest is a program much like a talk show; that is, during the news digest, a newspaper is the TV station’s guest and you can’t make that guest uninteresting. The newspapers haven’t worked for your news digest and haven’t asked you to make them meaningless. Newspapers do their work. And mainly, not bad at all. The news digest likewise wants a creative collective because you also claim “to replenish” your image with it.
The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.