A Commitment to Future Generations

Reflections from the Armenian Weekly’s Assistant Editor

From the December 2019 Special Anniversary Magazine Dedicated to the 120th Anniversary of the Hairenik and the 85th Anniversary of the Armenian Weekly

With New England’s autumn sun beaming into the corner office of the historic Hairenik building in Watertown, Mass., I share with you, dear reader, my quiet sentiments in helping bring to life each week the newspaper that has, well before my time, continuously been propelled by dozens of selfless editors and assistant editors. I am in good company as I sit here marveling at the success of this small, but mighty news source, saluting those who have come before me with gratitude and wondering what’s next for her—on this, the 85th anniversary of our respected Armenian Weekly. 

This office space is mere steps away from a dark room that was unlocked for me just last August. I was a new mother and a formally trained journalist eager to re-enter the industry after spending merciless hours scrambling in and out of control rooms, obeying rundowns and monitoring countdown clocks to the second. I wanted to serve a new audience—the loyal kind that waits impatiently for the delivery of their newspaper every Saturday; the proud kind that looks for their grandchild in a story about the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF-YOARF) so that they can clip it on their refrigerator; the impassioned kind that engages and writes letters to the editor when a news story or an opinion piece has hit a nerve; and the supportive kind that uplifts its fellow community members and appreciates its deeply-rooted traditions, heritage, and culture. That’s the Armenian Weekly audience in a nutshell…     

Admittedly, tears welled up in my eyes that morning as George Aghjayan (Chairman, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee Eastern Region U.S.) elaborated on the amount of history enveloping me in that small room—shelves of bound Hairenik and Armenian Weekly newspapers dating back more than a century, rich with articles authored by editorial and literary giants, revolutionaries, journalists, analysts, historians, and spirited Diasporan Armenians who had a way with words.

As a native Californian, I have to say that my service to the Armenian Weekly during my short tenure so far has been mutually beneficial. I have realized that this 85-year-old publication has made me care deeply about a community I was never a part of; a community that has welcomed me and my ideas to document our important stories beyond the written word.

Armed with the same camcorder I used to capture my son’s first steps, I used my video storytelling skills to document hardworking women volunteers fold manteh for the upcoming church bazaar. I took my camera to Harvard Square so that viewers everywhere could see and hear the ardent pleas of our Armenian youth on the eve of the Armenian Genocide’s anniversary commemoration. There has also been recorded footage of hallmark occasions, like the book presentation of the Hairenik Association’s latest publication—the lauded English translation of Andranik Tzarukian’s Letter to Yerevan. These multimedia extensions of our legendary print have been recognized as an opportunity for growth and change. Three floors up from this very office, there will be, in due time, an exciting new addition to the Hairenik building—a media lab, which will inspire me, and I hope others as well, to produce a more enriching and engaging multimedia platform for our readership.

What has been most invigorating for me, however, is my relationship with the youth, or as our “In Sight” columnist Stepan Piligian calls them…the emerging generation. My mom always told me if I weren’t a journalist, I would have been a teacher. It seems that, since this past May, I have been adopting tenets from each of these arenas on this crusade to arm AYF members with not only the ability to write, but the understanding that they have a story to tell, that they have a voice. I believe this group is the future of this community newspaper; these bright and insightful young people will be working with me to take back the page that was once theirs in the 1980s and early ‘90s. I’ll be helping them in leading journalism workshops and inviting chapters throughout the region to join through video conferencing. The enthusiasm and spirit of the Diasporan youth are refreshing and encouraging; I look forward to collaborating with them.

With its limitless potential, its dedicated staff, and its unwavering support from the Diasporan Armenian community, I remain hopeful and optimistic that the Armenian Weekly will continue to thrive for generations to come. I wholeheartedly offer my commitment to its continued success, and I thank you for joining us on this journey.

Leeza Arakelian

Leeza Arakelian

Assistant Editor
Leeza Arakelian is the former assistant editor of the Armenian Weekly. She is a graduate of UCLA and Emerson College. Leeza has written and produced for local and network television news including Boston 25 and Al Jazeera America.

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