Community members young and old filled the Karamanoukian Glendale Youth Center Tuesday evening for a unique opportunity to meet with top executives from ABC7. Led by ABC7 and hosted in partnership with the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region (ANCA-WR), the Armenian Youth Federation Western US (AYF-WUS), and the Armenian Bar Association (ABA), the effort was aimed at cultivating a positive relationship between the news station and Armenian community members that reside in Southern California.
“A big thank you on behalf of all of us at ABC7 for organizing the ABC7 Listens meeting Tuesday night,” Stated ABC7 President/General Manager Cheryl Fair in a letter addressed to Asatryan after the event. “I thought it was a very worthwhile night. I was impressed by the passion, the community connection, and the thoughtfulness of those who attended. The issues discussed were meaningful and relevant. I know the entire ABC7 team got a lot out of the event and I expect you will see interesting stories developed in the future as a result.”
“We are very impressed by KABC’s outreach and leadership in putting this event together and their genuine interest in the issues that matter most to the Armenian-American community. Our combined partnership helped facilitate discussion and open dialogue between the station and members of the Armenian-American community, many of whom feel misrepresented and marginalized by the news media,” stated ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan said. “The open-discussion meeting was a major step by one of the largest Los Angeles television channels in learning more about the community and serves as a template for other news agencies to follow. The ANCA-WR hopes this will result in accurate news reporting that is both cognizant of and sensitive to issues important to the Armenian-American community and looks forward to continue building a strong partnership with ABC7 and other media outlets.”
Moderated by ABC7 Eyewitness News Co-anchor Marc Brown, the event commenced at 7:00 pm with welcoming remarks by ABC7 President/General Manager Cheryl Fair and ANCA-WR Board Member Raffi Kassabian. This was followed by a listen-in panel, which included Fair, Director of Digital Operations for ABC7 Kevin Boie, Vice President and News Director of KABC TV Rob Elmore, Vice President of Diversity and Community Relations for KABC Teresa Samaniego, Vice President of Creative Services and Programming for KABC Kara McNeely, and ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan.
In his remarks Kassabian thanked ABC7 for not only partnering in the evening’s town hall, but for taking the initiative back in April to immediately rectify the situation concerning the inaccurate reporting of the Armenian Genocide and for taking action with respect to KABC’s cameraman’s improper and anti-Armenian comments. He concluded by noting, “Tonight is a new chapter. A positive chapter in further building our working partnership with ABC7 to ensure that issues of concern to Armenian Americans are properly and accurately broadcasted to the American public.”
Audience members expressed concern over a pervasive lack of coverage when it comes to issues that directly affect Armenians, who make up a large portion of Los Angeles and the City of Glendale, where the station calls home. Topics ranged from the lack of proper coverage of the historic March for Justice that brought more than 166,000 protestors to the streets of Hollywood and more than 60,000 at the Rally for Justice in remembrance of the Armenian Genocide. There was also concern among various attendees over adequate coverage on the dictatorial states of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Community members called the panelists to always take into account the impact on local residents when covering international issues such as domestic developments in Armenia and the war in Syria.
Actor Ken Davitian, who has starred in major film productions like the Academy-nominated comedy Borat (2006) and Academy-winning comedy-drama The Artist (2011), said he would like to see more Armenian representation on-air, pointing to Fox 11’s anchor Araksya Karapetyan as an example. Others felt Armenians are too often portrayed in a negative light as perpetrators of local crime while more positive aspects of the community are ignored.
Both Fair and Elmore encouraged audience members to email them story ideas about events within the Armenian community and expressed their openness and willingness to improve coverage. KABC representatives also discussed various programming and social media as they distributed contact information and job opportunities for individuals interested in seeking careers with ABC.
Audience members also expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to voice their opinions and ideas out loud, reflecting a growing relationship between ABC7 and Los Angeles Armenians.
“The meeting was very engaging and informative,” Glendale Community College student Lori Sinanian said. “I came expecting generic responses from the facilitators, but I left feeling like our voices were really heard — loud and clear. It was encouraging to see ABC7 taking so of their much time to engage in our community and hear what we have to say.”
The Listen-In is a direct result of a meeting that took place between the ANCA-WR, AYF WUS, the ABA and KABC–TV’s leadership following a news report on the April 24th Rally for Justice protest during which the station included a known Armenian Genocide denier on air and the cameraman was caught on tape making bigoted anti-Armenian comments. At the time, the Armenian-American community expressed its outrage by reaching out to ABC7 by phone, email and social media to register its complaints and grievance. The station took immediate action confirming that the cameraman’s services will no longer be utilized, and issuing a statement of apology following the meeting along with a promise to work closely with the community in the future.
“We look to further building dialogue between our community and media outlets. While this was a great start, and we thank ABC7 for the opportunity, there’s much work to be done in ensuring that we have press outlets that accurately represent and mirror the communities they serve,” stated AYF WUS Board Member Gev Iskajyan.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.