“There Is Information About The Economy, But It Is Superficial, General, We Can Even Say Fragmented”

There are few Armenian-language economic analyses in the Armenian media.

Armen Ktoyan, an economist and expert at the National Center for Public Policy Research, receives basic information about the economy from official statistical sources. Based on the research, he makes his own analysis, trying to clarify the concerns over any topic discussed at the moment through the media or the Facebook page.

According to him, generally, there is a lack of economic analysis in the local media, and the professional skills of journalists in presenting the topics are not enough.

He notices a pronounced bias both in political as well as in economical issues. And he has the impression that the existing materials are an end in themselves. They are written in the news for the sake of being written to maintain a certain quota.

The quantity of materials does not lead to quality, does it?

Sometimes a journalist works on a freelance basis for a fee in various media outlets, and economic topics wouldn’t raise their interest to do more research or to go deeper into the topic. It only serves as a means of upkeeping the number of materials, for which they would receive a certain income.

When journalists call me for a professional comment on a variety of topics, sometimes it becomes clear from the way the question is asked that they aren’t familiar with the topic at all. Therefore,  I have to start the conversation from its initial stage so that I can make sure that the journalist understands the topic.

Very seldom does a journalist prepare, read and study or familiarize themselves prior to talking to specialists. The problem here is due to the limitation of resources.

The field of journalism is not attractive in terms of good income generation. Thus, economic topics become unimportant and remain in the margins of the media.

That is why, over time, several economic journalists, who were skilled and had clients, started writing for the public administration and the private sector instead.

It isn’t true to say there is no information about the economy, but it is superficial in nature, and generally, we can say it is incomplete.

For example, there is news about economic activity, but journalists do not write about how it is expressed in various fields, such as agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and so on.

We are also unaware of the developments in the international economy, very few materials are translated.

Armenia’s economy is a small and open economy and it cannot but bear the external influences, good or bad. Let’s take the topic of energy carriers, there is no news or updates, and forecasts in the form of analysis, etc.

The problem is that good-quality translation requires additional resources, and even if the media outlet has the ability to pay, it directs it elsewhere. It covers topics that are interesting for its investor and are in its best interests too. This is a global problem and is not specific to our country only.

Even if the Armenian media covers any topic, it is definitely biased, with a specific ideological direction.

Can the training of journalists on economic topics be a solution to the problem or is economic education definitely necessary?

It is not necessary for the journalist to have formal education in the field of economics in order to write on these topics. A topical interest and acquaintance with different online materials may be enough.

On the other hand, being familiar with economic processes and having a theoretical foundation is also important. I think having logic and a sharp nose is important in economic journalism.

There is also a genuine issue of financing the media. Can’t economic topics earn a high enough pay to generate money for the media?

An economics article viewed from different angles in Armenia can only be read on alternatively funded platforms. It is mainly on the websites of non-governmental organizations with international funding, and sometimes from several sources. That’s the only way to find quality content today.

The other problem is related to the audience of which very few people are interested in the topics related to the economy.

And the resources that must be spent on in-depth analysis are not justified in terms of consumption. Just like the development of think tanks in Armenia; there is no demand, no product.

Can’t a local business become a long-term subscriber, since analytical articles can also influence the decisions of the business community?

The journalism you are talking about is not pure journalism, it is a part of the consulting business. The company that provides business consulting services within the framework of its reputation, social responsibility, mission, creates a media platform and conducts an in-depth analysis of individual business sectors and the economy in general.

For foreign companies, media content is an added value for their consumers. The Russian RBC, the American Bloomberg, and others work in that format.

The question is as to why this way of doing things does not exist in our country.  Simply because there are widespread, deep-rooted problems in Armenia in all spheres. Therefore, journalism cannot exist outside those circles and stand on its own, without influences.

On the other hand, a competitive environment is needed to create such platforms, and a demand for in-depth analysis is formed in business.

Only recently, after the resignation of President Armen Sargsyan, I learned that with his participation in the United Arab Emirates, important cooperation has started with Masdar in the field of energy. Why was the economic topic of such importance not discussed in the media?

I think there are developments in all sectors of the economy that deserve to be covered and discussed. For and foremost, the changes in the energy sector.

There is no sector of the economy where there is a lack of interesting topics, especially since they are not covered well. There is a huge gap in the competitiveness of the economy, and investment opportunities, generating scientific results and other topics.

There is a need for serious analysis of human capital, and an in-depth presentation of the problems of the processing industry such as textiles, and agriculture.

Journalists cover agriculture only when the price of an agricultural product rises in the market. They mainly write that exports should be limited in order for prices to fall in the domestic market.

Maybe the problem is not only the lack of specialists and interest? After all, the public administration system can initiate coverage.

Making the current reforms and innovations available to the public today is risky because the media field produces a lot of garbage and there is fear that important information will be lost and will not be noticed amid the widespread dirt.

The quality of the information field is very limited. Unfortunately, people are still not able to figure out where to search and find information.

Besides, the official’s instinct has been closed, they prefer not to provide information to the public. However, civil society must be demanding and push officials to communicate.

Journalism itself can be a driving force, discovering topics, initiating expert discussions, researching and creating a field of cooperation, and often writing about problems.

Interview by Gayane Asryan

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