Time for Local Media to Remember That Armenia is Not Alone in the Universe

Samvel Martirosyan

Media researcher

The history of the “Armenian internet” is not very long, but it is very diverse. At the start of this century, there were only a few news websites, with a rather small audience in Armenia. 

The reason is quite simple: the local Armenian audience itself was quite small, and internet access was expensive and ghastly. Besides, it was almost impossible to read or write in Armenian script online; additional skills were required. And the majority of readers were Armenians newly established in the diaspora — mainly Russian-speaking.

And all this led to the circumstance that until 2006–2007, local online news media developed in a unique format:

(a) In many cases, the news articles were oriented toward foreign policy, since the online audience differed greatly from that of print and was mainly interested not in domestic but regional politics.

(b) Playing a large role in the Armenian industry were Russian news websites, as well as Armenian platforms having only Russian-language content; for example, the Russian Regnum.ru, the Armenian Armtoday.info, or the now defunct as a news outlet OpenArmenia.com, the editor of which I was lucky enough to be.

(c) The bulk of the readers weren’t from Armenia — they were diasporan Armenians, Azerbaijanis, and anyone interested in this region. For this reason, the content of these websites were directed more so toward an audience abroad.

Furthermore, the industry was so not competitive that newsroom staff went on long vacations twice a year with a clear conscience: from the end of December to mid-January and from early August till the end of the month. 

Everything began to change in 2007–2008, when for the first time in Armenia a political struggle was waged also in the field of information, and the internet became one of the main battlefields. During that time, the local media lost its interest toward the outside world and began to restrict itself to inside Armenia. In terms of language and content, online news outlets began to put the emphasis on domestic audience and content. 

Vacations continued in August 2008, which is why the local media missed reporting on the war happening in neighboring Georgia. This might seem very odd considering the hyperactivity of the Armenian media today, but that’s how it was.  

But if we turn our attention to the foreign press, it doesn’t write that often about Armenia. Creating waves are mostly negative news: earthquake, war, Genocide. The only ridiculous story about Armenia that attracted the global media’s attention, perhaps, was when the minister of culture, gun in hand, demanded electricity.

But everything changed in recent weeks. Armenia was in the center of the international media’s attention. And not only in connection with the Genocide. Overall attention toward the country has increased. This, undoubtedly, is unprecedented.  

But it won’t be this way forever, and interest will fade quickly if, for example, these same news outlets won’t be able to produce news that will be written in such language and with such emphasis that it will be able to be consumed also outside of Armenia. This is why news shouldn’t be written in such a way that the reader is forced to conduct an independent investigation to understand what or whom the news is referring to.

Furthermore, there are unreported topics in Armenia — such as the IT sector. There is great potential for information here, but neither IT companies are able to properly present their activities nor do journalists manage to write such pieces about them so that the main content is not only that the company is Armenian and this is a cosmic achievement. 

So, perhaps the time has come to review our approaches and return, in some sense, to ancient times — to again consider not only the local or worldwide Armenian audience. So that we again do not confine ourselves to our problems, and again the world doesn’t forget about us until — knock on wood — something bad doesn’t happen in the country.

Samvel Martirosyan

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

Add new comment

Comments by Media.am readers become public after moderation. We urge our readers not to leave anonymous comments. It’s always nice to know with whom one is speaking.

We do not publish comments that contain profanities, non-normative lexicon, personal attacks or threats. We do not publish comments that spread hate.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *