The Armenia Project Hosts Panel on Conflict Coverage in Modern Era

  • Top experts address challenges of Gaza, Ukraine, Caucasus, and discuss why some conflicts generate more coverage
  • Event held in collaboration with the the Institute for International Journalism at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and the American University of Armenia

YEREVAN, Armenia, Nov. 17, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — With war raging at multiple flashpoints around the world, the Armenia Project, an educational non-profit organization focused on accurate information about Armenia and the region, hosted a webinar on modern conflict coverage attended by a global audience including students from the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University and the American University of Armenia.

The panel of experts included Bloomberg News columnist Marc Champion, freelance photojournalist Astrig Agopian, former Associated Press Europe, Africa and Middle East chief Dan Perry, and Scripps Prof. Mark Turner. It was moderated by Tablet Magazine Editor-at-Large Liel Leibovitz.

They examined conflict coverage through the prism of the wars currently raging in the Middle East and Ukraine, and the late September exodus of over 100,000 Armenians from the self-governing enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh after it was attacked by Azerbaijan. Panelists also grappled with the question of how to ensure young people are exposed to genuine news at a time many of them receive their information through social media.

Leibovitz, a former New York University communications professor who is also is a partner at the Thunder11 communications agency, asked why the three conflicts received such wildly divergent intensity of coverage.

Agopian said events in Nagorno-Karabakh were underreported because they involved Armenia and Azerbaijan, two relatively small countries, and access to the conflict zone was restricted and difficult. But she added: “I think if you’re a good storyteller, and you just do your job, plus you’re able to explain why it matters, then you’re going to be able to hook the audience a bit more to get their attention… A lot of times they think it’s far away and they have nothing to do with it, but it’s not always true.”

“It is critical, I think, to keep reminding people … why is this important?” agreed Champion, who spent long periods in Ukraine since the Russian attack of February 2022, “The war in Ukraine, it’s a pretty easy sell,” he added, in part because Russia is a nuclear power.

He assessed the next potential flashpoint would be Taiwan: “We will be writing about that conflict as a conflict for years even if it never happens – because if it did, the implications would be so appalling.” Perry said the Gaza war confronts media with a myriad of challenges including how to report freely from a Hamas-run police state, how to handle the civilian casualties question, to what degree to introduce complex context amid hugely conflicting narratives, and how to deal with the political implications of the conflict in many countries in the West.

Leibovitz asked whether creating empathy is the goal. The panel agreed, but Prof. Turner also urged that “the bare and very basic idea of covering these conflicts has to be from a point of unbiased coverage as much as we possibly can. “Certainly there is an opportunity for advocacy but that is not in my mind journalism,” added Turner, who is a former executive news editor at the Akron Beacon Journal.

Leibovitz stirred some controversy by asking whether media has succeeded in covering the recent wars.
Champion said coverage of Ukraine has been complicated by the fact that journalists cannot cross the front lines to report on both sides. Still, he added, “I think there’s been a remarkable amount of very high-quality journalism done out of Ukraine … people taking high risks in order to figure out exactly what’s happening.”
“Reporters on the ground are doing great, great work, no doubt about it, in all three conflicts, but … certainly with broadcast, (the end product) tends to be very superficial,” Perry said. “The biggest failure maybe is that the mainstream media … has completely failed in taking the story to social media, which is where the youth are.”

Asked whether she would recommend the profession to potential young reporters, Agopian said: “I am a young reporter myself… I would say go for it because I cannot say not to do it when I’m doing it… The biggest advice is to really not take it lightly and prepare for it, because we’re not tourists.”

Turner agreed: “If they’re passionate about it, then absolutely. If they feel like they can be a great storyteller, then absolutely. It’s so necessary and so important.”

The event was live-streamed on the YouTube channel of the American University of Armenia, where it will remain available, and was also attended globally via Zoom. The livestream was made possible through AUA Media Lab.

About The Armenia Project: The Armenia Project (TAP) is an educational non-profit that promotes the democratic and economic development of Armenia by advancing the country’s communications ecosystem, ensuring it is robust, accurate and impactful. Through strategic programs and diverse partnerships, TAP raises global awareness about Armenia and the region.

About the E. W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University: Scripps is a top-ranked journalism school with more than 500 students attending the school each year. Many of these students go on to work at noted media industries, such as the New York Times, The Washington Post, Insider, Facebook, Google, and TBWA\Chiat\Day.

About AUA: Founded in 1991, the American University of Armenia (AUA) is a private, independent university located in Yerevan, Armenia, affiliated with the University of California, and accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission in the United States. AUA provides local and international students with Western-style education through top-quality undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs, promotes research and innovation, encourages civic engagement and community service, and fosters democratic values.

Caroline Glennon
(516) 941-8802

SOURCE The Armenia Project