LOS ANGELES, CA — With one of the largest circulations in Los Angeles and the challenges facing print media in the digital era, Alene Tchekmedyian is set to lead the Daily Bruin for the coming year.
Endorsed by her colleagues and officially selected by the Associated Students of UCLA’s Communications Board which publishes the campus newspaper, Tchekmedyian was confirmed as Editor in Chief on April 7, 2009.
A veteran of the paper, she comes into the position with years experience working the news and arts & entertainment sections and has worked with the online division since joining the paper as a freshman.
Coming from a community where success in media is not as readily championed by parents as other more traditional careers such as law and medicine, she quickly stepped into positions of leadership – she made Assistant Online Editor before the end of her first year on campus – and established an award winning collegiate newspaper career.
“My dad is a doctor. Two of my brothers are in medicine and another is pre-med, but I have always loved writing and journalism. I kept a journal since the 6th grade and did the yearbook in high school before joining the Daily Bruin,” notes Tchekmedyian an Orange County native.
Recounting a conversation with her dad about her field of study, the third-year sociology major remembers, “at one point he had me convinced to change my major and go pre-med, but I realized soon after that was probably not the smartest choice given my passion for journalism.” Since then and after becoming regularly involved in the Daily Bruin she happily notes that her parents have been quite supportive of her academic and career choice.
And they have much to be proud of as well. In 2008, Tchekmedyian and fellow Daily Bruin staffer Jessica Chou won an Associated Collegiate Press award for best interactive element for an audio slideshow series. The online feature focused on the plight of undocumented students at UCLA.
“I was responsible for the online elements and we had stayed up all night listening to the interviews and laying out the content,” recalls Tchekmedyian. “We crashed on the office couches as the 11am morning staff trickled into the office. Everyone was excited because our work got picked up by the Drudge report and the added attention ended up getting over 70,000 web hits, the most a single package had gotten to date on the Daily Bruin website.”
Last year she traveled across the state visiting the various University of California campuses to put together “UConnect: Election 2008”, an online multimedia project looking at the November elections and the impact on and thoughts of students, many of them first-time voters to be. The Los Angeles Times linked to the story as well (see it here
As Editor in Chief, Tchekmedyian will be responsible for managing a staff of about 400 on a schedule that takes professional discipline in order to balance classes and work. She will be overseeing the efforts the Daily Bruin’s four different writing sections – News, Sports, Arts & Entertainment, and Viewpoint – as well as the production sections which include design, photo, copy, online, and DB Television, the paper’s video section.
“We start around noon by going over what we plan on having in the paper for the next two days for all the writing sections. It is followed up by design meetings throughout the rest of the afternoon and following up with each section to help oversee layout. The copy staff comes around later in the afternoon and are there straight through the evening since it is a pretty rigorous process,” she notes. “We have editorial board meetings twice a week and decide the editorial of the week which we then write up,” she added.
Tchekmedyian comes to the Editor in Chief post having just served as the Daily Bruin’s Director of New Media. The experience will serve her well as the campus paper is not immune to challenges faced by the print media industry. However, it is in this very sector where she looks to make her mark as the paper’s head.
In order to meet the challenge of the demand for immediate access to information, she hopes to introduce an online oriented production cycle having reporters write stories throughout the day and cutting down time between writing and publication.
Increased web presence and a streamlined production cycle make that possible for the Daily Bruin to be the first source of news about the campus. Making her point she notes, “If a UCLA basketball game happens that evening, it is old news by the time the article is published in the print edition the next morning.”
While she has immense experience in the production end of the Daily Bruin operation, she has continually sought out opportunities for writing and creative expression. In addition to handling the multimedia and web publishing aspects of the paper, she has also written for the News as well as the Arts & Entertainment sections. She also contributed to Prime, the Daily Bruin’s monthly lifestyle magazine which she hopes to more closely incorporate with the newspaper during her tenure as Editor in Chief.
“I am surprised that there are not more Armenians working at the Daily Bruin since there are so many of us at UCLA. There was one sports writer, one copy staffer and two in the Viewpoint section. There is always a connection when you meet a fellow Armenian and I always get excited when I meet an Armenian in the newsroom,” says Tchekmedyian.
As a UCLA student she also contributed to the campus’ Armenian student newspaper, Armenian Chronicles with fellow Daily Bruin staff writer, Shahane Martirosyan. Tchekmedyian hopes to make herself more available to Armenian students who are curious and interested about working with the paper, but shy away from doing so because they are not familiar with the process.
Not limited to campus media, she has been busy interning with the Los Angeles Times and ArmeniaNow.com and worked as a freelance writer with the Armenian Reporter. In 2007, she visited Armenia with a church youth program. While there she sought out an opportunity to do journalism and on her own initiative landed an internship with ArmeniaNow.com. It was her work in Armenia that caught the attention of Paul Chaderjian who invited her to write for the Armenian Reporter when she returned to the United States.
Tchekmedyian intends to apply to graduate school. While she hopes to stay in California to attend one of the prestigious institutions in state, she acknowledges that there are east coast schools with strong journalism programs.
For now, she has a demanding year ahead of her. One of, if not the first, Armenian American to lead the Daily Bruin, Tchekmedyian knows that there are great challenges ahead. Coming from a community which has yet to have a significant presence in mainstream media, it is also a great opportunity for others to follow in her footsteps.