A Time of ‘Orphan’ News Media Outlets

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

Much has already been said about the boundaries of news outlets and other sources of information (blogs, social networks, and so on) gradually blurring. All of this can be discussed from various points of view.

A normal news outlet differs from a website spreading gossip in that the former has an address and provides contact information and information about its staff — and most importantly, there are people who bear responsibility for the information they provide. 

In other words, at least the editor’s name has to be known, and it wouldn’t be a bad thing if news articles had a byline (with the name of a journalist who exists in real life). (I don’t exclude the possibility that these conditions might not be met by underground news outlets, but in Armenia at the moment, it seems, there is not a decent underground activity that is not the initiative of any political figure’s child.)

Armenian online news media, from this perspective, is quite diverse. There are websites that don’t even have an “About Us” section. There are sites that have this section, but it contains only pathetic statements: “newly established but ambitious…”, “a free platform for all citizens, regardless of age, gender, political or religious orientation”, or “the purpose is the establishment of free speech and civil society in the Republic of Armenia.”

Often, named as a publisher is some Limited Liability Company — but first and last names are absent. Often it can be assumed that the online news outlet doesn’t have a street address: journalists might be working from home. Of course, no one prohibits this way of working, but when contact details are absent (even phone numbers aren’t mentioned), the news outlet’s work might cause problems. 

Looking at information about the sites listed in the News and Media section of Armenian web resources rating site Circle.am, we find that a majority of the top 50 sites provide either poor or practically no contact details. 

Those sites that both provide contact details and identify the editorial team are not many (taken into consideration were news outlets operating in Armenia; for example, the newspaper Yerkramas could also have been on this list; however, its editorial team is based in Russia).  Let me list them: News.am, 168.am, Aravot, eMedia.am (here, editors are listed in the “authors” section), Armenia Today, CivilNet, Hetq, Novosti-Armeniya (“News-Armenia”), ArmeniaNow, and Golos Armenii (“The Voice of Armenia”). Notable news agencies not listed on Circle.am but that could be included in this list are Mediamax and RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun).

In fact, only 20% of news websites present themselves to readers in a way that can be considered normal. 

I understand that Armenia is a small country and many editors are good friends of mine and many others. We all know the respected journalists who work, for example, at Haykakan Zhamanak, but, in any case, conveying information about them is the right thing to do. 

When “normal” news outlets don’t consider it necessary to present their contact details in full, a unique blurred environment is shaped in the entire sector, in which “orphan” (that is, anonymous) websites can emerge and prosper. And that, in turn, reduces the public’s trust toward news outlets and journalists. 

Samvel Martirosyan

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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