For me, probably the worst part of working in news is the industry’s magnetic pull to crisis. (There’s even a saying: “If it bleeds, it leads.”) Of course, there is good reason to fret, especially when it comes to community and local news. The exact number of newspapers operating in Massachusetts is difficult to come by, but it must be at least 120, because that is how many are owned by a single media conglomerate. It is clear that the problems we face in journalism are not just about losing newspapers; it’s also that those which remain do not enjoy an ownership as diverse, representative, or even remotely local as the regions they are reporting on and to.
But despite the siren calls, I’m not even remotely pessimistic. Notably absent from all the fuss are the success stories; I see the Armenian Weekly as one such hopeful example. I joined the paper nearly two years ago as assistant editor, working under the wonderful Rupen Janbazian. In the summer of 2018, I assumed the responsibilities of editor. Since then, I’ve been inspired to watch, in various capacities, the paper steadily grow, modernize and make some very interesting progress, much of which stands in direct contradiction to the alarmist headlines about small newspapers that I see regularly published in major publications. I am proud of the work that’s been done, and now, feel ready to pursue the next stage of my career as a writer and journalist. This will be my final editorial for the Weekly.
In the last year, rather than shrink, our staff has grown. We’ve gained a savvy and hardworking assistant editor, Leeza Arakelian—formerly of Al Jazeera and Boston 25—who has helped fold multimedia projects into the repertoire of our content. We now have a steady stream of video pieces and a weekly live broadcast on Facebook. We brought on a young designer and artist, Masha Keryan, who works with us to bring our vision for the print to the next level. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the print recently, I highly recommend you do so. We’re also fortunate to have employed a slew of local student interns, like Maya Malekian, a journalism major at Boston University, who has helped us with our social media presence; and Carolina Gazal, an English major at Boston College, who has covered events and crafted some wonderful stories.
It has been especially fun reinvigorating our paper’s artistic stride. Last summer, our print got a makeover. No stone was left unturned—not even our logo. As they say, sometimes, what’s old is new, and we reinstated an iteration from the eighties designed by the legendary Tatul Sonentz-Papazian, which we felt was more representative of the ethos of this publication, than the Helvetica-clad logo of recent years.
From a less sedentary artistic perspective, our paper now enjoys up to three cartoonists who submit work regularly. These include Bill Terian of the Detroit area, whose illustrations have given our paper a vibrant look; Robert Apelian of Medford, Mass. whose new panel ‘Dispersed‘ is voicing the Diasporan experience in a new, humorous light; and most recently, Kat Mooradian of Philly, whose profiles of individuals in the Diaspora are currently exclusive to the print.
When I took on the editor role, it was my hope to build on the accomplishments of previous editors, each of whom brought with them a vision and a batch of new talent. I have absolutely loved working with the paper’s long standing contributors, some of whom have been writing for close to 30 years, but I’m also extremely pleased to have worked with countless new faces—writers, artists, and more—who contribute their talents, often on a volunteer basis, to make our publication what it is.
We’ve even managed to forge a few new legacies in the paper. In the last year, we’ve brought on Raffi Elliott, whose column about Armenian affairs, ‘Notes from the Pink City,’ is now a staple in our pages, and more recently, Stepan Piligian, whose yet-to-be-named column is touching on some very real issues in the East coast diasporan community. There are countless others who submit work and updates about their regions when they can.
Earlier today, I sent out an email thanking our writers and contributors. But what good are their stories and fabulous cartoons if there’s nobody to digest them? When I first joined the Weekly, we sent out a survey in hopes of better understanding who’s reading. Almost a thousand people responded, nearly half of whom were subscribers for over a decade—some of them, close to 50 years! That’s when the significance of this work truly hit me; it is a part of our heritage.
So whether you’re one of those legacy subscribers, or you just started getting involved last week, there are a million reasons to thank you. Your loyalty and support keep this 85-year-old publication alive. (Fun fact: This year marks the 120th anniversary of the Hairenik, and the 85th anniversary of the Armenian Weekly!) It’s inspiring to see a scrappy community paper evolve and grow in a world where most newsrooms are closing their doors at an alarming rate. It goes without saying this is possible thanks to the dedicated individuals who make up the ARF Eastern Region’s community and Central Committee.
As for me, it’s likely not the last time you’ll see my name in the bylines of the Weekly. I’ll still be around and will even have one foot in the door developing The Armenian Weekly Podcast, which I started last year, but haven’t had time to properly flesh out. If you want to stay in touch, you can continue to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For me, journalism is a true public service that goes both ways; it has been an honor serving and being served by you.