LA Times, Coverage of Armenia’s Neighbors, and What Must Be Done

In this fourth of what started as a three part series on LA Times coverage of interest to Armenians, let’s briefly visit Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Iran.

As you might guess, Iran gets lots of coverage, what with the whole “going nuclear” issue, the ongoing antipathy and tension between it and the U.S., its connections to Lebanon’s Hezballah, oil reserves, and the hot wars in abutting Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether this coverage is truly representative is an open question. Unsurprisingly, it betrays a U.S. establishment bias. It also lacks the Armenian component— that Iran serves as a lifeline for illegally blockaded Armenia and has played a balanced, if not Armenia-leaning role in the latter’s conflict with Azerbaijan. Of course this wouldn’t do, because then readers might not buy the “extremist Islamist” narrative used when describing Iran in the U.S. However, despite these flaws, my sense is LA Times readers probably get the best overall picture of Iran— better than Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kurdistan, and Turkey— albeit quite accidently.

While it might be hard to believe, Azerbaijan fares even worse than Armenia in the LA Times. Most of the coverage consists of the “news in brief” type—about missile shield placement, alleged plots foiled, one of its countless bellicose threats against Armenian that was actually reported, and an op-ed piece, editorial, and longer news piece— all betray a generally positive tone. Imagine! The op-ed piece refers to Azerbaijan as a “secular” and “cautious” country. The oil/energy theme is present as is the “tough” neighborhood this country finds itself in. The incompleteness of the coverage itself creates a bias that leaves Azerbaijan in a much more positive light than it deserves.

Georgia fares the worst. It might as well not exist. If the Russians hadn’t invaded it, and if its president wasn’t a megalomaniac, Georgia probably wouldn’t exist in the eyes of the LA Times’ editors. The war and protests are about all the coverage this misbegotten country elicits. While no one in their right mind would pity Georgia, it is important for people to understand how disruptive a course has been set by the leaders of this artificial construct of a state. Also lacking is coverage of the human and civil rights abuses heaped upon Armenians living in that part of “Georgia” that rightly belongs to the Republic of Armenia.

Where does all this leave us? Clearly, the LA Times coverage of matters important to Armenians is anemic and skewed. To counteract this, we must, as I mentioned earlier in this series of pieces, “lobby” the newspaper. We need a media policy and people implementing it who are competent to take on the righting of this poor coverage. In fairness, perhaps the relatively recent purchase of the paper by its new owner and the turmoil in the newspaper industry have made it difficult to continue on the positive track taken when the pro-Turkish editor was booted out and the term ‘genocide’ starting being used properly. We must remind the editors that they are here, at least in part, to serve the reading public of the LA basin/Southern California, of which the Armenian community is a significant part. Perhaps a partnership should be entered, with our community supporting the newspaper more, but on condition of more, and more accurate, non-State Department biased coverage.

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