With Gratitude: ArmeniaNow Turns the Page on 14 Years of Pioneer Journalism

Dear ArmeniaNow readers:

Thank you for 14 years of giving us reason to do what we do on these pages. Today, however, we do it for the last time.

With this edition we conclude a fabulous episode of Armenia journalism. And we finish with great expectations for how the journalists who produce these pages will continue their influence on local media, as they look for new homes for their work. Find them. Follow their work.

In July, 2002, ArmeniaNow appeared out of nowhere before there was much chance of sustaining an online journal from a country where dial-up was still about as good as cyber connection got and waaaay before “social media” was legitimized.

We began with the intention of filling a gap that we believed existed in society’s transition from a special-interests-influenced, to a more independent-based media environment. While ArmeniaNow (and our parent NGO New Times Journalism Training Center), was surely not the first to offer “western style” journalism training, there was, however, a missing element in getting from the classroom to the newsroom . . .

Millions of dollars, pounds, francs, were being spent on modern equipment, on foreign experts – on programs that showed great promise but little result. Simply, while young and veteran journalists were being taught how to perform, they were not being offered a platform where that learning might be applied. ArmeniaNow became such a vehicle.

We helped journalists develop, by attaching to their training the responsibility of seeing their names above their work that would eventually reach readers in more than 100 countries. It was not a simple process: Reporters wrote in Armenian, had it translated into English, the English version was edited, then translated back in to Armenian, so that the reporter could see the changes in her/his work and understand how to make adjustments in future articles.

ArmeniaNow started out as a weekly, publishing about 10 articles each Friday. As the process became refined – as reporters, translators, editors became more adept – we became a daily, publishing as many articles in a day as we originally produced in a week.

Our staff – reporters and photographers – won local, regional and international awards and scholarships. And it is most significant that some “graduates” of ArmeniaNow have gone on to launch new media endeavors, taking with them exposure to a methodology that was unique when first applied here.

In 2002, our future was not a guarantee. For a year, we existed on donations that were, mostly, month to month, one-off contributions — from individuals. (Thank you, James Tufenkian, for keeping us afloat when it seemed we might sink.)

Then, in 2003, Louise Simone – via the Armenian General Benevolent Union – became our benefactor and remained so until now. It is to her boundless credit that Ms. Simone never once imposed any editorial pressure nor even a suggestion as to how ArmeniaNow should cover the news or what its position should be on matters of political or social controversy. Her contribution to this organization follows a long tradition of philanthropy that has earned her family respect here and in Diaspora, and we only hope that she feels rewarded for her generosity.

ArmeniaNow was nothing but a concept in the summer heat of 2002, when Swiss-Armenian Vicken Cheterian – then founder-director of the Caucasus Media Institute – loaned the institute’s upper floor to us for a few weeks, from which ArmeniaNow was launched. Thank you, Vicken.

British journalist Tony Halpin and American journalist John Hughes founded ArmeniaNow. But it has long since been an Armenian institution; one in which we are grateful to have had a part. ArmeniaNow set out with the ambition to be of Armenia and about Armenia, produced by those who live in Armenia. It has been gratifying and humbling to see the process unfold in the hard work and talents of the many people involved.

Over the past 14 years, more than 100 journalists and/or students have participated in the life of ArmeniaNow on some level. We even hosted interns from countries outside Armenia. Our overall goal has been to produce information that is accurate and reliable. We hope we have lived up to that aim in seeking to provide local news for a global audience.

Thanks for reading.