- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 August 1, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

A remarkable thing happened here last week. You might have noticed that it was our one-year birthday, but that's not what I'm talking about.

Last week, and again today, bylines appear on ArmeniaNow by a young American-Armenian who is learning journalism in Armenia. Isn't that situation supposed to be the other way around? Aren't young Armenians supposed to be clamoring for scholarships, grants, handouts, internships to get professional training in Western countries?

Thousands do. But how often is the pattern reversed? In journalism, it didn't happen as far as we know until Swiss-Armenian Vicken Cheterian started the Caucasus Media Institute a couple years ago. CMI brings journalists from Soviet countries to Armenia for academic training. ArmeniaNow has struck a partnership with CMI to offer its students a practical application for what they are learning in CMI's classroom.

You'll find the work of CMI graduate Viorica Vladica from Moldova on today's site. But the case of ArmeniaNow interns Sosi Essajanian and Lala Demirdjian is even more special.

Sosi and Lala are on summer visits to Armenia as part of the Armenian Youth Federation program. Each year young people from that organization come here to do volunteer work while also learning about their heritage. Many work in schools or orphanages, etc. We're glad that this summer we could offer Lala and Sosi a chance, if only for a short time, to develop their journalism talents and interests in a way that one day might benefit them and Armenia.

Lala, 22, is an education major at Haigazian University in Beirut. Sosi, also 22, is a graduate of psychology from Framingham College in Massachusetts where she will soon return to begin post-graduate education.

The young women didn't know each other before coming to Armenia. And a few weeks later their names are linked over stories being read around the world. We're glad we could help foster that union.

I don't know how their friends back home have spent their summer vacation, but I can tell you that Lala and Sosi have spent part of theirs learning the difference between telling a story and showing a story, and the fine art of crafting a "nut graph".

One day last week I walked into the newsroom and saw the two of them sitting at a desk getting advice from Gayane Mkrtchyan, one of our reporters from Echmiadzin.

Beirut met Boston, met Echmiadzin. That's when it occurred to me that something special was taking place - a local teaching Diaspora. There ought to be more of that.

Nearly seven years ago, I came to Armenia on assignment from a U.S. newspaper to report the work of an organization you can read about today in our lead story.

The work of Dr. Roger Ohanesian challenged me to find a way to apply my skills in a manner that reached beyond the confining limits of professional gratification. My colleague Tony Halpin came here for similar reasons. We haven't yet achieved the success of Dr. Ohanesian's Armenian Eye Care Project (a Mobile Newsroom, perhaps? Hmmmmmm.)

But having reached a point of being able to offer training and experience to even non-locals tells us we're on our way.

According to Agnes
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  Photo of the week
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About 10 to 15 students sat outside the Presidential Residence in Yerevan Thursday to protest the closing of student hostels. They held banners saying "Think about future students" and "Mr. President are you with us?" The government is dismantling the student hostels, forcing non-resident students to find other housing.



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