Walk in line with time – this is the guideline of ARMENPRESS
YEREVAN, DECEMBER 18, ARMENPRESS. For already a century, ARMENPRESS State News Agency has its special place and role within the Armenian news media arena.
For many decades the agency has covered the important events in the country, and at the same time has had a role in the development of public opinion.
Now, already in modern times, thanks to modern technologies the agency is operating not only in the role of responder and recorder, but is also offering new and innovative solutions ahead of modern news media-informational challenges. We sat down with Aram Ananyan, Director of ARMENPRESS, to speak about the past and vision for the future of the agency.
Mr. Ananyan, first of all let me congratulate on the jubilee – the 100th anniversary of ARMENPRESS. . The Armenian Telegraph Agency was created during a historic and at the same time difficult time period for Armenia, and is carrying out its activities for already a century. What’s the secret of “longevity”?
Probably the reason is that news agencies have been and continue being the most in-demand format of the news media. Both at that time and today, the main burden of news reporting, that is the reliable and operative preparation and supply of information to subscribers and readers, falls on the news agency. In this context, the decision to create a news agency, at that time a telegraph agency was demanded and aimed for the future. Today also we see that in the changing world the news agencies have strengthened their role even more, which we witness also with the example of all our partners.
Another important circumstance is the continuous care of the state toward the agency. We have felt and continue feeling that the work of ARMENPRESS for the country is important and highly appreciated .
Modern news agency and modern journalism isn’t exclusively a profession of the human sciences sphere: in this work both journalist, technology and our perceptions regarding the future are united. In current times the informational formats are changing, developing very rapidly, and today’s media consumption and media production greatly differs from the same process five or ten years ago. The situation of the recent years is very different, now in addition to traditional approaches and measures there are also new ones. The modern media consumer is a lot more demanding than in the past and these demands bring a certain positive pressure on the work of the news media and agencies are fated to literally not lose the pulse of time and not get left behind of time. These trends will continue in the coming decades too. Walking in line with time by maintaining leading positions isn’t an easy challenge.
Being the oldest news agency of the modern period of Armenia, ARMENPRESS has been the only state news agency, and has maintained the same status also during Soviet years. Today, however, a broad competitive arena exists. What tasks are put before the agency for it to be able to not only proceed in line with changes, but also to lead them?
Competition in this case plays a more positive role than negative because the absence of competition is the direct pathway to stagnation. It is only within a competition that you can identify your advantages and strong sides. During the last years we saw that as result of efficiency, reliability and high professional standards ARMENPRESS strengthened its role as a news agency rendering reliable and quick information even more. This is highly important for a news agency, because simultaneously with speed, reliability is also important and you don’t have the right to sacrifice one for the other. Today the race is about seconds
There was a time when printed press was the most important information source, that was followed by radio and television. However the latter, proceeding from format logics, were rendering information at specific times. Today, simultaneously with the development of IT, the logic of accessibility has changed. People can get information whenever they want, wherever they want, through any kind of device.
New technologies create a broad arena of opportunities for modern media, but at the same time bring new challenges.
I am glad to note that we are trying to also not stay behind in terms of technology in modern processes, however not staying behind must happen not at the expense of quality, i.e. as a traditional news agency we must be able to ensure internationally combinable qualitative standards, in order for our more than twenty international partners to be able to use this content. This fact brings a certain type of conservative element to our work, but in any next project that we implement we adopt more serious professional and qualitative standards as a starting point and therefore we advance. The realization of a number of projects during the past year is an example. First was the digitization of a part of ARMENPRESS’s archives within the framework of the History: ARMENPRESS project, where digitized variants of more than 10,000 photographs are presented for the public. We carried this out with best professional standards, which we are proud of. Next was the creation of the French-language department. It became the fifth language that ARMENPRESS is reporting with. Today, in addition to Armenian, Russian and English, we are also creating news production in Arabic and French. We added these two languages in the past seven years.
The development of video content was a very interesting experience for us. We have much to do in this direction and our searches are aimed for getting more interesting and quality content because we see that a healthy and good competition exists in this sphere and we don’t want to be weak and unprepared in this competition. We have made the first serious steps for entering this sector, but we are also seriously preparing in order to be able to have our weighty voice and role there also. ARMENPRESS was first to experiment with artificial intelligence tools. For several times I’ve had the occasion to mention that an artificial intelligence software is participating in the development of our reporting news line. We will increase this work.
In January of 2018 the Republic of Armenia and Respublika Armenia newspapers were merged with ARMENPRESS. Today, we are working with our colleagues in the direction of reforming and developing reporting options. We are sure that we can achieve good results in this sphere also.
When did you start to use artificial intelligence tools?
We began using in 2016-2017, now we will increase this volume because we see great prospects in data reporting. A modern news agency also includes technological elements. We are trying to fill this gap. This will at the same time give us numerous opportunities.
Do you see a need to expand the list of languages?
The increase of languages happened by a very justified logic. When we opened the Arabic division, at that time the global spotlight was on the Middle East. We understood that many of our compatriots, who also read Arabic, have the need to received this information in Arabic, and at the same time they wanted to understand in the Arab world what people think in Armenia about the situation in Syria and the Middle East. French was associated with the Armenian chairmanship at the La Francophonie organization. In terms of other languages it is necessary to make an in-depth analysis and if needed necessary steps will be taken.
ARMENPRESS isn’t limited only with the Armenian environment and is open for cooperation. International cooperation has been expanded in recent years. What plans do you have for the future?
There is always the fear whether these memoranda gain meat and blood. I am happy over the fact that in our case the signed memoranda don’t simply remain on paper and the productivity indicator is quite high. Monitoring for more than two dozen of agencies shows that news about Armenia mostly reach their destination through ARMENPRESS. We also see increased international citations. This is also gladdening, because in addition to the Armenian media market the international media arenas are also important for us. For this, we focus on standardization of news, translational content, so that our partners don’t look for alternatives.
ARMENPRESS is a member to several international news media organizations – the CIS Inform Council, the National News Agency Association of Black Sea Region, and is also an observer in the Association of National News Agencies of South-Eastern Europe and Baltic States.
From 2014 to 2016, ARMENPRESS chaired the Council of National News Agencies of the Black Sea Region. This was the first time that Armenia presided over an international news media organization. The 2014 sessions of the CIS Information Council were held in Yerevan. As a result, our visibility on the global news map grew. We were able to use the non-material, intangible advantage for strengthening our ties even more. We also have noticeable participation in the World Congress of News Agencies, we are discussing the possibility of joining that National News Agency Association of Europe, which is the best in the world today.
This is both a professional dialogue and exchange of experience where compared to the size of our agency our representation in international media arenas is incomparably greater. This is at the same time very good for our correspondents since it is molding them in professional terms. Why not also for video-correspondents, because in 2018 March we for the first time were courageous to create a bridge between ARMENPRESS and Ruptly in terms of exchange of video content. In this context no agency can be self-sufficient since we live in such a world where cooperation and exchange of experience is signified.
Every word has its place, every article – its purpose and boundary. We have numerously noted that it is necessary to treat readers with respect, moreover when today the opportunities of selecting news sources are big.
Certainly, readers must be treated with respect, because our strengths are our readers. We have a task of regularly learning, developing and not stopping for not a single moment because competition will not weaken. We see that social media isn’t new anymore and it is taking its share from traditional media, we see that today fake news are increasing, not in terms of volumes but speed of distribution.
Journalism is threatened with numerous other technologies challenges. In this context the reporter’s work field is being narrowed down and we are facing a need to re-evaluate and re-organize our actions.
ARMENPRESS is first of all the people who are working and who have worked in the agency. They say that ARMENPRESS is a forge of quality staff with its unique handwriting, who are further able to be distinguished in the news media sector.
My colleagues like to joke that there are no former journalists of ARMENRPESS, and there’s more truth in this than myth. We see the connection that exists between the agency and our veterans, our current partners, also our temporary former partners, why temporary because many return, which makes us very happy. ARMENPRESS is not only a forge where staff is prepared. We certainly understand that we nevertheless have assumed a part of this mission. By the way, not only us. Globally, national state news agencies are mainly carrying out this mission, but we are also gladdened with the return, meaning people perceive not only as a school, but a place where they can realize the skills that they gained and feel professionally accomplished. There are numerous other circumstances that we must do for this accomplishment not to remain only in the professional field. This connection only inspires and makes us happy and this centennial is more a celebration of every ARMENPRESS journalist in this context, the people who spent decades with the agency. Our devotees are numerous, now many of them are in the various fields on life – politics, economy, of course news media, and elsewhere. It is simply a big army of people, the overwhelming majority of whom are devotees of ARMENPRESS.
Interview by Lusine Mkhitaryan
Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan