Making Headlines in Mary

Speeches Shim

Thursday, July 16, 2020
Artur Petrosyants at the MediaStart Program in Ashgabat.
Sergey Mirzoyev

 USAID Helps Aspiring Turkmen Youth Pursue Their Dreams

Billie Eilish is a popular American singer and songwriter with fans around the world. Eighteen-year old Artur Petrosyants from Mary, Turkmenistan, is one of them. “I would love to interview Billie Eilish someday,” he says bashfully. 

Located in the south-east region of Turkmenistan, Mary is famous for being home to the ancient city of Merv, on the historic Silk Road. At 18, Artur is now one of the youngest journalists in Mary and the only correspondent for Arzuw News, an Ashgabat-based private online news portal, in the city. 

“I’ve been watching soccer since as far back as I can remember. I enjoy playing sports too, but I’ve always been more drawn to the commentary. As a child, I wanted to become a sports commentator when I grew up. Now, I feel like I’m closer to getting there,” says Artur. 

It was always his dream to pursue a career in sports journalism, but Artur had no role models to follow in Mary and couldn’t envision a path forward to achieve his dream.  

Then, he came across an advertisement about the USAID-funded MediaStart event, a six-week program to introduce young Turkmens to the profession of journalism. MediaStart is an immersive initiative designed to inspire the next generation of professional journalists, in partnership with one of Turkmenistan’s only private news portals, 

MediaStart rolled out in phases, beginning with a seminar on journalistic writing and media outreach and ending with a competition to receive internships—and possibility of future  employment—at and other Turkmen companies seeking professional writers.

“It was my first real introduction to journalism,” Artur says of  MediaStart. “I received hands-on training in writing eye-catching headlines, the ethics of interviewing individuals while maintaining neutrality, and what it takes to write a compelling story.”

At the end of the training, all 35 candidates participated in a competition in various categories of journalistic skills such as best interview, best article, and best photo and video reports. Artur’s interview with the Mary football player Ilya Tamurkin won him first place in the best interview category and the attention of Azat Seyitmuhammedov, the founder of Arzuw News. 

Azat offered Artur the opportunity to intern with Arzuw News remotely from Mary for three months starting in February 2020. 

“During my internship, Azat was a fantastic mentor to me. He gave me feedback on how to write better stories, how best to approach issues, and shared several helpful interviewing techniques with me,” says Artur.  

By mid May, Artur completed his internship and immediately started working as Arzuw News’ local correspondent in Mary. “To date, I’ve written over 100 published articles for Arzuw News, ranging in topic from sports to major events to just about everything that’s newsworthy in Mary,” adds Artur.

As part of Turkmenistan’s military conscription, Artur will begin his service in six months. After completing his two years in the Turkmenistan army, he plans to pursue a university degree in journalism. 

“It is my dream to be a sports commentator someday and use my skills to bring the games to life for the people of Turkmenistan,” says Artur. With the internship and current job with Arzuw News under his belt, Artur feels like he has gained firsthand experience, giving him a massive competitive advantage—and that interview with Billie Eilish could be just around the corner. 

MediaStart, part of USAID’s Enriching Youth for Tomorrow project, included 35 young Turkmen participants, most of whom have gained employment as journalists or in media after completing the program.  

In Turkmenistan--and all of the Central Asian republics--USAID pursues productive dialogue and partnership to make clear the benefits of an independent media and access to credible information for  governments, businesses, and the public. By supporting independent media and strengthening a new wave of journalists in Turkmenistan, USAID is investing in future leaders in media and encouraging independent thought, creativity, and initiative among Turkmen youth. 

There is no telling what these young journalists can accomplish as they launch their careers. Just take Billie Eilish as an example—she won five Grammy Awards by the age of 18.