Official Documents Should Be Only a Source of Information

Mesrop Harutyunyan

Writer by calling

A few days ago, one of the news websites (I’m not naming the site so that other media outlets that probably likewise published the same story aren’t offended that I didn’t mention them too) making no edits of its own published excerpts from the indictment on a criminal case. Here’s a paragraph from that piece:

“Crime boss Petros Israyelyan has been charged because arose in him was the determination to cause together with other people severe damage to Mushegh Musheghyan’s health as a result of Alik Banduryan’s exhortations regarding to carry out causing severe damage with a group of people to Mushegh Musheghyan’s health by slaughtering, killing, breaking his legs with clubs, and other ways.”

I apologize for this extensive quoting, but I think, like me, you too laughed out loud reading these words…

Laughter is laughter, but this is more so irritating. And again we have to bring up the issue of working with information sources (the topic of language — another time).

What are the official documents or disseminated press releases of this or that institution, body, or organization (whether state, private, or civil society)?

For a normal, quality media outlet they are simply sources of information, from which it’s possible to write a news story if they contain information that is of public interest.

For many sites that are poor quality or, more accurately, suffer from an itch to disseminate as many stories as possible, they are easily published “news stories.”

No effort is required: you copy, write a line at the beginning (“As informed by X press service”), or you don’t write that and only at the end add “X press service,” post on your site, and that’s it…

Let readers search for the news or anything interesting in that. If they search, of course.

I constantly want to understand the motive to publish verbatim releases disseminated for the media. I don’t understand it. I’ve probably fallen behind in life.

During the days I was preparing this piece, I encountered tons of official statements on several (if I say a dozen, believe me) news sites. You don’t believe me? Taken any release of, say, the government press service on any day and do an online search by headline…

No word, no letter is changed; it’s the same copy in all the media outlets. 

On this occasion, a few additional surprising “news” phenomena: again on the day of writing this piece, such a statement was spread across news sites: “Serzh Sargsyan sent a congratulatory message to Georgia’s president.”

“President Serzh Sargsyan sent a congratulatory message to the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili on the 25th anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Armenia and Georgia, informs the President of the Republic of Armenia press service.”

I encounter such “news” practically every day. Now tell me, please, what are readers informed of from this, that almost all the news sites consider it their duty to disseminate…?

Another issue is coverage of, in many cases, unspeakable and pointless press conferences. But about that in the next piece.

For justice, let me say that after the private letter sent to the editors of the very reputable news site mentioned in the first paragraph, the paragraph quoted above was edited. But this is just one incident. Not always will a commentator be found and not always will editors be willing to edit.

Mesrop Harutyunyan

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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