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Participants of the penalArmenian media are a force for change in the Armenian-American community. That was the consensus reached at a panel discussion on the topic organized by the Armenian National Committee's Professional Network at Burbank's Woodbury University on 31 January 2009.

The panel, titled "Mass Media in the Armenian Community," provided a forum for professionals in the field to interact and network with Armenian students interested in the industry. On the panel were: Asbarez English Editor Ara Khachatourian, Horizon TV General Manager Harry Vorperian, Maria Armoudian of KPFK Radio (90.7 FM), the Armenian Reporter's Western Bureau Editor Paul Chaderjian.

Over 50 people attended the event, from students and professionals in the field to volunteers and community activists. The panel, which included a dynamic question and answer session, ran the gamut of topics from the coverage of Armenian-American issues in community and mainstream media to avenues available for college students interested in exploring career options in media.

Panelists talked about their personal experiences in the field and the opportunities that exist today for prospective journalists.

"From being the starving Armenins to going to the inauguration" of President Barack Obama, Armenians have come a long way since the early days of the Armenian-American press, Khachatourian explained, talking about his recent trip in time through the Asbarez archives. "You really see the role our media and papers had in developing our community."

Khachatourian said it has been the Armenian media's responsibility to bridge the different communities where Armenians live across the world. He cited as an example, Asbarez's role in balancing the chaotic situation created in the community from the influx of thousands of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union, with their deep cultural differences and "true social needs." He spoke of the community's growing political clout in the United States, attributing it largely to Armenian Media's ability to mobilize the community to affect decision making in government and media. Community activism, he explained, forced the New York Times and Los Angeles Times to reverse editorial policies that characterized the Armenian Genocide as an allegation.

But this change would have been impossible if Armenian Media did not perform its core function, which according to Chaderjian, is public service. Armenian media, he said, provides the community with the news it needs to come up with a collective social, political and cultural agenda. 

For Armoudian, who volunteers at KPFK hosting a progressive talk show, media doesn't only set the agenda but also "gives us a sense of who we are as a society,” reinforcing a sense of our shared values concerns. That self reflection, she stressed, is very important for Armenians. An ancient people with a "profound history and culture," they are not only conscious of how Armenian-media depicts their community, but also how the broader mass media portrays them to the world.

“Are we included in their content?” she asked. “How are we covered, presented, portrayed?” Frustrated by the vain and shallow image of Armenians projected by Kim Kardashian's TV show, Armoudian stressed the need for Armenian journalists to have a real presence within mass media.

Journalists must be agents for social and political change, she added. This is why she volunteers at Pacifica Radio, KPFK's parent company. “The dumbing down,” of American mass media for maximum profit through shallow entertainment drove her to seek ways to engage people with thought provoking journalism, she said.

With the serious challenges facing mainstream media today, the panelists also discussed strategies for Armenian media as it seeks to overcome today's hurdles to engage its readers and viewers in new ways. As mass media copes with the economic downturn and seeks to find ways to adapt its conventional model to the shifting demands and consumption patters, so too does Armenian media, Khachatourian noted.

For Asbarez, the increasing interest in the internet has opened a new chapter for the 100 year old publication. In 1997, Asbarez launched its website on the internet, becoming the first Armenian publication to have a presence on the World Wide Web. Today, it reaches its audience through new information technologies, utilizing daily email newsletters and Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to disseminate the daily news as it's published, directly to the reader. “With more readers turning to the web for their news, we are looking at new technologies to enhance our online presence and media delivery capabilities,” Khacaturian said.

Armenian television too is facing serious hurdles, grappling with the reality that its audience is also changing. With the generations changing, Horizon TV is now looking to expand its programming to appeal to a younger generation of English-speaking Armenians that have grown up disconnected from Armenian TV, explained Vorperian. To bridge that gap, Horizon will soon be introducing English-language programming targeted at 18-25 year olds. “Local Armenian TV offers barely any English programming,” he said. “Horizon's goal is to change that.”

“I was fortunate to find Horizon,” Chaderjian said, talking about his own journey in media. After graduating college, he joined Horizon's team as a journalist, reporting on developments unfolding in newly independent Armenia, and war-torn Karabakh. “Twenty years ago, I didn't have access to cameras or editing programs; it was a whole different landscape.”

“There are so many ways to tell your story and this is the age,” Chaderjian exclaimed, noting how much easier it is today to get one's foot in the door. Working for Horizon, he said, gave him two years of experience making news reels and writing stories for broadcast new, which he was able to present to people when trying to get into the mainstream field.

“You can work in Armenian media and have a more immediate and direct impact on your community or you can go to the networks, where you may or may not get what you write published,” he said.

Expanding on that note, Vorperian extended an open invitation to the students at the panel interested in gaining experience in TV media. “We are welcoming you to come up with concepts to create shows for horizon media,” he said. “Horizon can be your stepping stone to build a portfolio, to promote your events, to have discussions with the community.”

Echoing his colleague's invitation, Khachatourian talked about the many opportunities available at Asbarez for aspiring journalists. Asbarez has been working in collaboration with the ANC-WR to offer internships to young Armenians interested in media and communications. For information about interning at Horizon or Asbarez, email: info@asbarez.com.

“Today's situation in media provides you a unique opportunity to leave a mark. It's about commitment and passion,” Khachatourian said. “It's very exciting, constantly engaged, with your brain always functioning.

Nora Yacoubian, a representative of Hamazkayin and volunteer photographer for Asbarez, was also on hand to talk about the various opportunities open to students thinking about careers in journalism. At the question and answer session, she talked about scholarships Hamazkayin offers graduate students pursuing studies in literature, journalism, or theater/film. More information about the scholarship, which totals $5,000, can be found at the Hamazkayin website.

“We are happy that we were able to start the panel series working in collaboration with the Woodbury University ASA,” said Raffi Kassabian, a member of the ANC-PN's organizing committee and the moderator of the day's event. “Not only were we able to provide a forum for the community to take a closer look at the media profession, but we enjoyed this opportunity to help bridge students with the young professional community.”

Sevag Demirjian, the President of the ANC-PN Board concurred. “I was very pleased that we were able to bring everyone together here for a healthy discussion and I look forward to our upcoming panel series events, where I hope to see as much enthusiasm and participation from our community as we had here today.”

Photo by Nora Yacoubian

Source: Asbarez, Los Angeles, 06 February 2009

Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2009 (12373 reads), comments: 0
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