Today, my students participated in a journalism conference at the school. Titled, “The Future of Journalism In The Digital Age,” the conference featured a discussion with three local journalists, Paul Chaderjian, Allen Yekikian, and Liana Aghajanian. My senior student, Vatche Yousefian, moderated the festivities.
Paul Chaderjian has a number of credits as a journalist in print, digital media, and television news. He has worked for ABC News, Asbarez News, The Armenian Reporter, Horizon Armenian TV, and most recently, Haytoug: The Official Publication of the Armenian Youth Federation Western United States.
Allen Yekikian represented digital media, having worked as the Assistant Editor and Online Media Director at Asbarez News as well as Haytoug. He is a graduate of UCLA, and has degrees in history and Armenian Studies.
Liana Aghajanian gave my students the print and digital news perspectives, having worked at The Glendale News-Press and Burbank Leader, both part of the Los Angeles Times conglomerate. She has also written for Edible Los Angeles, Bitch, Paste and The Outlook Newspaper. Her digital news experience includes being the “publisher, editor, and writer of ianyan, an online magazine of Armenian news, features, opinions, and more where she has written about the protests regarding the Armenia-Turkey Protocols and the effect of the 2009 Iranian Election and subsequent fallout on the Iranian-Armenian community.”
Prior to today’s conference, my students gathered together to draft topics and questions for the panelists. They boiled down their inquiries to several key areas: One, the students wanted to know the journalists’ opinions about devices such as IPads, Kindles, Nooks, and other electronic reading gadgets, and how they might benefit the writing and journalism industries. Since several students have blogs and also read them, they were looking for tips and techniques for creating content and reaching a wider audience. Third, the concept of citizen journalism was a prominent interest, since so many news organizations now have links for submitting stories from the average person-on-the-street. Finally, the subject of newspapers and magazines, particularly what form these traditional publications might take in the future, concerned many students, as they are interested in majoring in journalism or working in media in the future.
The presenters had several suggestions for students wanting to work in journalism, and along with key advice, discussion and insight, wisdom and experience, the three also traded phone numbers, email addresses, and blog sites with students, leading to valuable networking.
Mr. Yekikian brought along the latest issue of Haytoug for students, and the school provided copies of the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s own journalism publication. Copies of a recent article written by Mr. Yekikian and Mr. Chaderjian were also available for students.
I participated and took pictures, and my wife, also an English teacher at the school, observed in the audience. We were joined by two of the school’s Armenian studies instructors, both journalists: Dr. Minas Kojayan and Mr. Hratch Sepetjian.
The day was a great experience for students, offering a chance to dialogue with working journalists about their lives and vocations. We are thinking of ramping up the school’s journalism program in the future, so my interest in the discussion was to determine in what format to publish student work. Should we go with a traditional newspaper, or move everything online? The bottom line advice from our presenters was clear: do both. We can publish daily, or weekly, online, and take the best articles and publish in a magazine format once a quarter or semester.
Having kids work as journalists is the best way to teach writing. Students write, revise, and polish their work while learning the research and reporting techniques of journalism. Upon publication, they see the immediate effects of their writing on readers. It is a “win-win” situation; students writing papers for the teacher rarely see the power of writing to create change and foster a culture of ideas. Journalism allows them to explore their world and write about it, and one cannot get more relevant and immediate than that.
Mr. Yekikian suggested the magazine format, and from his experience, he felt that magazines did not face the same fate as newspapers. They have a longer shelf life, and often offer deeper, more thoroughly researched writing than newspapers that must be created daily with a pressing deadline. Online publishing offers writers a way to create content within a twenty-four hour news cycle in today’s world.
Both Ms. Aghajanian and Mr. Chaderjian told students that they must be able to be “multi-platform” journalists, writers and producers comfortable with video, print, and visual technology as well as with programming and source code like HTML. Mr. Yakikian and Ms. Aghajanian use a form of Wordpress technology for their sites, and they told students to learn the basic programming skills to modify existing platforms to create unique web and blog portals. All three panelists agreed that journalism today is multi-faceted and requires skills in a number of domains and disciplines. Students must be aggressive and learn about technology, programming, writing, photography, and video production in order to compete in the workplace. Mr. Chaderjian insisted several times that this is an incredible time to be alive, and that technology offered many avenues for storytelling and journalism.
So it was a good day, an important day, for writing, thinking, understanding, and most of all, meeting three individuals who offered inspiration and advice for the next generation of journalists.
*Update: A few minor corrections to this story are necessary. Paul Chaderjian is currently a columnist at Asbarez Armenian Newspaper and a host on Horizon Armenian TV. Allen Yekikian is the co-editor of Haytoug.
**Update: Our three presenters can be seen discussing the event here, at Horizon Armenian TV.