EPF supports development of independent regional media

Although approximately fifty regional print media outlets are currently operating in Armenia, there are no daily local newspapers outside the capital city and in some areas local print media is not functioning at all. In July 2006, Eurasia Partnership Foundation launched a two-year program to strengthen the operational capacities and sustainability of regional print media outlets in Armenia.

The Foundation provided support to 28 regional print media outlets by improving staff professional skills, enhancing their financial sustainability and linking them with newspaper distribution networks. Eurasia Partnership Foundation then supported six independent regional print media outlets that demonstrated a commitment to reform and quality improvement based on their business development plans. The Foundation provided these six newspapers with financial and technical assistance as they developed improved systems for advanced newspaper operations and financial independence.

Gyumri’s Shrjapat (The surroundings) weekly is one of the Program’s most outstanding success stories. EPF provided a one-year grant, along with capacity building and technical assistance to the organization. During the course of the grant, readership of the newspaper significantly increased, the print run increased from 3,200 to 4,000 copies. The newspaper set up a dynamic, interactive website (www.shrjapat.am), and the design and the content of the newspaper greatly improved.

“The enthusiasm and energy of the staff are unbelievable”, - says Alice Ter-Ghevondian, Program Officer for Media and anticorruption programs at EPF Armenia,- “what they have achieved is just amazing, going from an entertainment outlet printing 1000 copies at a time in a  small garage, to a serious weekly newspaper with a circulation of almost 4000! Their efforts to keep the paper independent and unbiased are very respectable. We are proud that EPF played such an important role in supporting the development of this paper. ”
Shrjapat has also succeeded in creating a sustainable business model. Currently the newspaper maintains a network of the most sought after journalists in Gyumri, has diversified its funding base (including loans from FINCA and IOM) and generates the majority of its income from retail sales, advertisements and classified ads. This business model and financial independence allows Shrjapat to avoid relying on wealthy individuals or political parties for backing, a common pitfall of small media outlets in Armenia. Indeed, Shrjapat can be considered one of the rare cases of independent regional media in Armenia.

“We still face a number of challenges,” says Editor-in-Chief Epraksia Mekhakyan. “Of course we could use better office facilities, better printing equipment and distribution opportunities. Sometimes we still face indirect pressure, and some officials have unsubscribed from the paper on political grounds. However, we rely on our readership and believe we can make it through.”

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