Paradox: Lori Residents Rarely Read Newspaper But Local Papers Operate on Income

16.12.2011, Newsroom

There are two main newspapers in Vanadzor, Vanadzoryan Khchankar ("Vanadzor Mosaic") and Loru Marz ("Lori Marz"). Editors of the newspapers are satisfied with sales, but random queries show that residents of Lori marz (province) don't like reading papers all that much.

Vanadzor resident Maria Ivanovna Tereshenko, on the whole, doesn't read Armenian papers. Her Russian-language education isn't the reason — the woman of Ukrainian descent can read Armenian. It's just that she doesn't trust papers. "In papers, they only talk — in reality, there's no truth. And I like the truth," she says.

The last time Aleksan Bulghadaryan from Vanadzor bought Loru Marz was on the occasion of its editor's, his friend, Manvel Mikoyan's birthday. In the opinion of the unemployed engineer mechanic, in papers people search for answers as to when finally there will be work. "People buy papers to read some news or another, to find out the news, but today there's nothing interesting, nothing in the papers either," he says, expressing his concern.

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Hayk Hovhannisyan, head of the Saramej community, reads both Vanadzoryan Khchankar and Loru Marz. In Khchankar, it is the classifieds, the humor section and celebrity lives that interest him. Vanadzoryan Khchankar is sold in kiosks in Saramej, but to get Loru Marz you must obtain a subscription. The village council office receives 5 copies of each issue. "We give it to our employees; we read it. Some of the residents in the community read it: they come; we say there's a newspaper there, it's interesting, sit and read it," he says.

Vanadzoryan Khchankar is a business plan

According to Vanadzoryan Khchankar Director Haykaz Simikyan, journalism is a business. You have to provide a journalism product for which the reader is prepared to pay. In his opinion, quality product is absent in the field of journalism today, which raises the problem of "not being read." 

"In providing a product, you have to consider the reader's demand," he says. 

It is on this principle that he founded Vanadzoryan Khchankar. "I assumed there can't be a paper in a small city that isn't diverse, that's only news or has a certain slant. I thought that it should be a 'mixed' paper, a so-called 'house' paper so that on entering the house, it provides comprehensive information."

And it is diverse: there's a crossword, TV program, humor section, football, children's page, lawyer's corner, psychologist's corner, business section. Out of 24 pages, 4 are set aside for news, 10 for announcements and the last page to ads. 

In Simikyan's opinion, the ads and announcements provide no less important information about the city. "Who says that announcements aren't news?" he says. "That too is news; people get quite interested, read it. A person has nothing to buy or sell but he gets information on who's selling what in the city at what sort of prices."

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One of the advantages of Vanadzoryan Khchankar is that it's printed on Simikyan's own printing press. This allows for more independence.

Everything except politics is written in Vanadzoryan Khchankar. In Haykaz Simikyan's opinion, it's not yet time to turn to politics. In his opinion, there's no politics at all in Vanadzor. "There can't be because politics is formulated in Yerevan. They can come to Vanadzor to perform some sort of task, but that's where it ends."

Loru Marz has nearly no unsold copies 

"It's very hard to sustain the press in the provinces," says Loru Marz chief editor Manvel Mikoyan. 

Loru Marz is published twice per week, with a print run of 1,000 copies. It was founded by the Lori provincial governing authority. Initially it was an official paper. Now half of it belongs to the provincial authority and 49% of the shares belong to Mikoyan. 

Loru Marz completely covers its costs. Of course, the paper receives up to one million drams (approx. $2,616 USD) annually in financial assistance from the state and local budgets. This is assistance set aside by the Lori provincial authority for non-state media, while Vanadzor City Hall assists the paper through its own community resources, for which the paper publishes the municipality's announcements free of charge. 

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The paper's print run is completely consumed. There are nearly no issues sent back — only 5–10 copies. In addition, 70% of copies are sold by subscription; the rest, single issue copies at newsstands. The paper is distributed in unequal quantities to all 113 communities in Lori marz. The Stepanavan region and all the schools in Alaverdi, as well as a large number of businesses, subscribe to Loru Marz

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Apart from subscriptions and single issue sales, the paper's revenue comes from announcements. Half of the paper's 4 pages are announcements. Even if there's an abundance of news, the paper maintains this setup. If there are a lot of announcements, the paper doubles in size.

Loru Marz has one staff reporter. The editor says she is paid the minimum wage. Correspondents work on honoraria. 

Manvel Mikoyan says that his paper criticizes specific problems. He describes how when a nuclear power plant was set to be built on Vanadzor River, there were more than 20 articles in the paper, 5–6 published in Azg. A critical campaign ensued, and the initiative was thwarted. 

"There aren't the big problems in the provinces as there are in the capital," concluded the editor. On issues of national significance, Mikoyan prefers to write in Azg.

Adrine Torosyan, Vanadzor

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