All For a Click: Armenia Online News Media’s Trinity of Headline, News Story, and Accompanying Photo

Armen Sargsyan

I’m writing this piece so that my forest ranger friend doesn’t take that which happened with him too personally.

And so it was that someone sitting in their home found out from someone else that someone walking in a forest heard the sound of a power saw. The first someone immediately called a local news site, which subsequently published a three-line (including the headline) news story with the headline “Deforestation in Lori marz [province]”.

Accompanying this story is a photo of a giant sequoia tree. The felled tree in the photo is at least 20 meters long. These types of sequoias, at such a rare height, grow mainly near lagoons around Tampico. There’s Tampico, Mexico, and then there are the forests of Gugarats, Armenia.

It should come as no surprise then, if one day you or I find our photo on an Armenian news website next to such a headline [headline reads: “An American Tries to Terrorize Vagrants with Fake Cemetery” while photo is of member of the opposition Heritage Party and former MP Armen Martirosyan]:


Or, under the headline “Feces Bacteria Found in Swimming Pools” (below) we suddenly might see one of our photos — found with a random Google search and published all in good conscience. See what an elegant choice was made, to portray the “feces bacteria” in the best possible way.  


At least a biological term was used for human excretion. Because if feces might be found in the cleanest of clean pools abroad, in Armenia, “swimming” on the surface is a different kind of substance [Headline reads: “Shit Hits the Fan: Israel is Planting Jewish Seeds in the Wombs of Armenian Women”. Note, the section “shit hits the fan” is literally translated as “Shit rose to the surface of the water”]:


Every day we read dozens of news stories in the Armenian press with extremely interesting headlines and educational topics such as he killed his mother-in-law with 60 knife blows, husband cuts off his wife’s lover’s penis and eats it, and girl uses an eraser on her body for 8 years to remove a mole. 

I assume that the photos of the knife, penis, or partly erased mole accompanying these stories is directly linked to the story. But is it? In reality, it turns out that the news is taken from one site, while the photo, from the depths of the Internet. 

Moreover, if the news outlet’s tagline is “news from all over Armenia,” but you come across a story titled “Tornado Hurls 80-year-old Man to Bangladesh,” then you have to imagine that the waves of Lake Sevan (once referred to as the Geghama Sea) in Armenia hurled the old man to the western Yerevan district of Malatya-Sebastia (colloquially referred to as “Bangladesh”).

But if you dig deeper, you find that the incident, in fact, occurred near the shores of Indonesia based on a story told by a Dutch witness during Pope Pius II’s reign. After all this, it’s no longer important whose relative of the person who published the news you’re cursing; what’s important is that you visited the site. 

Oh what flights of the imagination in local news coverage! You wouldn’t believe your eyes. Below is but a sample of the photos that accompanied a recent story of a ghost lurking in the Armenian village of Karbi


If a certain Vardanyan (the eventual culprit) was caught later, Armenian online news outlets would have had an indispensable collection of photos of monsters and zombies. And all this, about a mere mortal.

And what should the Creator do? He whose doubtful existence has once again been “proven” and republished by Armenian online news outlets — apparently with an accompanying video [Headline reads: “Brilliant Proof: God Exists – VIDEO”]:


Not to be accused of being against truth, I happily declare that in the world of online imagery, Armenian news outlets are taking the first step and making progress. For example: the headline “Vahan Twice Tried to Rape his Mother” (below) is accompanied by a large photo of Vahan himself [Note: other journalists covering this case have since confirmed that this is not, in fact, a photo of Vahan]. 


Oh, good for you! You’ve published Vahan’s photo, ok. But where is the photo of his mother, their building, the door to the entrance, Vahan’s phone number (at least the last six numbers)? How could you have made such a glaring omission? Especially if the headline of the second-most read story of the day is the “Positive and Negative Aspects of Morning Sex” (below):


Of course, to be so specific, you have to take somewhat more pains, but we, your faithful readers, have a suggestion: better that you write the news and the headline, and instead of a photo you simply include this image:


We ourselves will go to Google, find a photo that corresponds to the story and the headline, and relish your published story with our chosen photo. Why trouble yourself? Why search and make a choice among millions of photos? Better that we spend a bit more time and find a photo that we prefer than lament over your proposed option.  

Alternatively, you can simply add the words “photos accompanying all the articles can be found on Google.com” to the top of the page. Otherwise, what happens is that one person likes sequoia trees, while another, ebony trees; the third wants to see the rape victim; another, the instrument used to commit the rape; and so on.

Let us decide. Then we’ll all be happy. Then again, this too isn’t a sure thing, since happiness is directly related to sex (reads the headline below). You don’t believe me? Go to the site:


Armen Sargsyan

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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