Commentary: From Memory Lane to Cyberspace

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By Edmond Y. Azadian

The year 2012 will mark the 80th anniversary of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator. However, The New York/New Jersey Chapter of Tekeyan Cultural Association, joining a group of friends of the Armenian Mirror-Spectator, fired the opening salvo of celebrations by organizing an elegant banquet on Saturday, June 4, in Teaneck, NJ, at the Marriott Hotel. In attendance were diplomats, high-ranking clergy, representatives of organizations — an elite crowd of writers, intellectuals and community leaders and benefactors.

The evening was saturated with nostalgia as former editors and major contributors were remembered and honored. Dr. Movses Hovsepian, Armine Dikijian and Jack Antreassian, who had been the pillars of the community and they had become part of Mirror history. A tastefully-designed programbooklet had highlighted all the previous and current editors who were as if in attendance that evening.

The affair afforded the opportunity to reflect on the history of the publication and its role in shaping community life and direction.

The booklet appropriately included a poem by Vahan Tekeyan, which helped define the dichotomy faced by the founders of the paper as they embarked on a new venture. It was a watershed event because they had to separate language from the mission. Until then, Armenians had not faced that kind of situation; language had always served as the vehicle of the mission.

The dilemma was either to forgo the mission or forgo the language. Abandoning the mission would automatically lead to the demise of the language anyway.

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Poet Tekeyan lamented the decline and the eventual demise of the Armenian language by writing:

“The language I write is read but by a few.
With time, even those few readers slowly decrease…
A hundred years from now, our speech though old, still new
With its smooth and harsh sounds,
will have to come to cease.”

It is unfortunate that the poet’s prophecy is becoming fact of life in the diaspora. It is a pity to lose the beautiful Armenian language. However, it is not a pity when we can cross the language barrier and carry the spirit and the mission of our ancestors to the next generation and to posterity. That was the nature of the venture that the founders were embarking on, in 1932, when they saw the handwriting on the wall and were alarmed by the alienation of the new generation. While agonizing over the demise of the language, they undertook the task of having the legacy transcend from one generation to the other through the publication of the first English-language Armenian paper in the US. They tried to convert tragedy into triumph.

My personal association and the collaboration with the Mirror dates back to 1966, almost 45 years. Through my association with the editors and the major contributors, I came to realize that they were the incarnations of the very same founders as they carried on with their sacred mission through the paper’s history; they had the same dedication, vigor and vision.

The destiny of the Armenian people has an ironic twist. Indeed it was destined to have Armenian journalism to be born and flourish outside our homeland, but for the homeland.

The first Armenian newspaper, Azdarar, was published in 1794, in Madras, India. It was edited by a priest named Rev. Harutune Shemavonian. The editor and a group of patriotic intellectuals had a dream to achieve; they aspired to see Armenia free and independent. They even had outlandish plans to purchase historic Armenia from the Ottoman Sultan, similar to Theodore Herzl’s plan to carve a homeland for the persecuted Jews.

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator was also founded in Boston, Mass., away from Armenia, certainly with tamer ambitions and with the rather more modest goals of bonding Armenians together, building bridges from one city to another, or even one country to another.

In our fast-moving world and in the era of globalization, some people have come to believe that print media is something of the past, as electronic media takes over and progresses at a dizzying pace. Despite the bankruptcy of the Borders bookstore chain, the print media is still with us for the foreseeable future and the Mirror has a role to play for that future; it has to propel 80 years of legacy into that future while beginning to share the progress of the electronic media.

Initially half of the Mirror subscription base was in the New York/New Jersey area. Initiatives, like the 80th anniversary celebration, will mark a healthy comeback for it into this market.

Through the Internet, the Mirror has been able to reach its global readership, as it has ventured into cyberspace.

We do not and we should not underestimate the contributions and the achievements of other publications. As we compete, we learn from each other and we are destined to carry the same mission for the Armenians around the world.

There is a pervasive bias that publications sponsored by political groups tend to be partisan and closed to open flow of views and ideas. Through its persistent policy, the Mirror has tried to dispel that bias, because the publication has been a forum for free intellectual discourse, at the same time never losing sight of popular sentiments. Indeed it has retained and maintained its touch with the general public throughout its history.

Had Rev. Harutune Shemavonian been alive today, he would certainly have blessed the endeavor and venture of the Mirror.

As the 80th anniversary celebrations take off, the publication moves from the memory lane into cyberspace, for future ventures and adventures.

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