ArmenՅԱՆs: Armenian-American TV host Tatevik Aprikyan’s path to Newsy’s prime time show The Why

12:08, February 3

American news network Newsy has started its major show The Why, which is about explanatory journalism covering important topics by answering the most frequent question-“why?”. The show is being aired on prime time and is hosted by Armenian-American reporter and TV host Tatevik Aprikyan.

Tatevik was born in Yerevan, but when she was 5, her family moved to Seattle, Washington. The future TV star began to be interested in TV journalism since her childhood and her love towards TV lead her to write to one of the local TV hosts asking to take her on a TV tour. The latter agreed and a 14-year-old school-girl started realizing her dream of becoming one of the most successful TV personalities in America.

From local newspapers to TV and radio stations...There isn’t any field, where Tatevik hasn’t  tried herself. Her first professional job was on King-TV, then she worked for CBS and ABC. Before receiving the offer from Newsy, Aprikyan worked for FOX 13.

Throughout her career, she has covered different topics, met a lot of famous personalities, interviewed presidents and celebrities, like Madonna, Shakira, Michael Douglas, and many others. STYLE has interviewed Tatevik Aprikyan for its column ArmenՅԱՆs, which is about the famous Armenians all over the world.

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Tatevik, let’s start from the beginning: Who are your parents, what are their occupations?

Both my parents are doctors/scientists. My father is from Yerevan. My mother was born in Kapan and went to university in Yerevan first. Then they both went to complete their doctorates in Moscow, Russia. They met at university in Moscow when they were completing their PhD’s, and got married, moved back to Yerevan after they finished their studies. Shortly after I was born and then my younger sister. We were brought up in a household that valued intelligence, excelling in school. My grandfather was a doctor on my father’s side. My mother’s side grandfather was a lawyer, both my grandmothers are teachers.

You have moved to The United States at the age of 5. Do you remember anything connected to your childhood in Armenia?

Yes, I do remember a lot. I remember playing on Orbeli street, where my grandparents lived (my father’s side). I remember that apartment in Yerevan, the kids in our building. I remember we usually visited  Tsisernakaberd, we lived nearby.

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Why did your family decide to move to USA?

In 1993, the Soviet Union was collapsing. My father was offered a job in Seattle, Washington and we moved to the United States. The first several years had their new challenges. I didn’t speak any English when we moved here. My parents knew what they learned in school in Yerevan. It’s only now as an adult that I recognize how much work my parents put into our life here in the U.S. Their careers are both very nuanced and not everyone who moved to the U.S from the Soviet Union was able to do the same work they did there, transferring their skills and succeeding in the same career in a new country. It’s not easy no matter how anyone does it. My parents worked so hard to learn their science and doctorate jargon in English now and become successful in their careers here. Right now, I’m the same age they were when we moved here. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for me to move to a new country and try to be a broadcast journalist there while raising my own children in a foreign country. No matter, how challenging it was for my parents, how much work they put into it, my sister and I had the happiest childhood, we didn’t know any different or really understood at that age we were starting life over in a new country.

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How your interest towards journalism began?

My journalism interests I think started long ago, even before I really knew I wanted to do this for a career. When we first moved to Seattle, one of the first things my father bought was a camcorder. I used to talk to that camera every day. We have so many videos of me showing my dad what I learned, where we were that day and “reporting” to his camera. As I grew up, I really took interest in writing, it was my favorite subject in school.

My parents would watch the news every night. And I would see those reporters cover stories and then I would pretend to do that the next day to my father’s camera and sign off like they did on TV, “On the streets of Seattle, I’m Tatevik Aprikyan.”  When I moved back home to Seattle reporting for the Fox affiliate, one of the first live shots I did was in the same neighborhood I grew up on when we moved to America, on that same street that I would report to my dad’s camera, only all these years later, I was the reporter on the 11pm news, actually saying, “Lve in Seattle tonight, I’m Tatevik Aprikyan”. And Seattle is a big city! To do my first live shot back home after a decade around the country on the same street I grew up on, was pretty incredible.

I was very fortunate in my career, that even as a young 14 year old kid, a gracious news anchor opened the door for me to show me around. She and her co anchor I still stay in touch with today. Many people opened doors for me and now I work really hard to open those doors for young students breaking into their careers or kids who reach out to me for advice. It’s one of my favorite things because so many people did it for me, and it made such a difference, and I love doing that for young kids now.  

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Could you remember the most memorable reports you did according to you?

Well, I was working all those early years. I did a handful of unpaid internships, which is standard.  I was a paid reporter when I was 16.

I worked at King-TV, NPR Seattle. And it was at KING-TV (the station I first walked into when I was 14) they helped shoot my first TV reel when I was then a formal intern at 19 years old. That was after years of already working at such a young age for newspapers, radio and TV internships at local news in Seattle and in New York City for David Letterman. I landed my first official TV job in a small town in Idaho Falls, Idaho. Here in the U.S. you start in small towns on typically two year contracts and work your way up the markets. I spent two years in Idaho Falls- a place I never thought I’d ever live. It was very rural. Very small town. And I’m such a big city girl, it was quite a shock.  I was fortunate that station was a great place to learn and pay my dues. I anchored the evening news there and reported. After two years there, I moved to Providence, Rhode Island. Covering the New England market, not just that state. I covered some of the country’s biggest stories there: the ebola outbreak, the historic winter in Boston in 2014, the trial of Tsarnaev- the Boston Marathon bomber. After a year in New England, I returned home to Seattle.

I’ve covered everything in my career: snowstorms, live shots in bitter cold, murders, fires, trials, the worst stories of humanity you can imagine, some of the most brutal crimes that I wish I could erase from my mind, but you don’t get to choose what you cover, and you do your job as a journalist no matter what story you get sent on. I’ve met presidents, interviewed celebrities, covered some of the biggest stories in the U.S from local level to national level. I’ve laughed, cried, had to stand on fire lines for 14 hours to frozen cold doing live shots every 20 minutes in blizzard conditions. I’ve covered some historic moments that to this day feel so surreal. I’ve lived a dream life and I’ve worked so incredibly hard for this career. I was told everything from you should change your name to something more “American” to change my personality and all kinds of things. Luckily I had people I looked up to in this business who told me to bring out who I am. Use my diversity as my strength, absolutely don’t change my name. Use my language skills to reach more communities and be who I am. In New York City at Letterman I met celebrities, musicians and icons that I grew up seeing on TV from Madonna to Shakira, to Michael Douglas, President Clinton, Denzel Washington, Juliana Margulies and so much more. To see production of that world renowned TV show not only opened so many doors but I understood what that level requires. And I also realized I wanted my career to be in news, not entertainment. There were times I shot my own video, edited my own stories and anchored 8 shows solo every night. I’ve been a producer, a reporter, a news anchor, I’ve worked in radio, newspaper, fashion magazine and for all the major network affiliate stations. I’ve done almost every job in the newsroom. The more you know how to do, the better you can understand how the entire newscast comes together.

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You have been an anchor and reporter for ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC… And now you’re on Newsy hosting its leading show The Why? How you came to it?

I started here at Newsy in September of 2021. I never thought I would leave Seattle after spending a decade around the country reporting and anchoring and moving somewhere new every couple of years, I finally was back in Seattle and had been working there since 2015 when I returned. I loved my job and my life in Seattle. It’s my hometown market. It’s where all my dear friends and family are. It was a very difficult decision to leave Seattle. I would have never left had it not been for this opportunity at Newsy. Opportunities like this to anchor this type of show, with journalists I really respect and the mission of Newsy I really believe in, just don’t come by very often. For me, this show is what I’ve worked my entire career to do. 

I’ve always loved national and international news. I didn’t get into journalism to cover fires, murders and car crashes, which is very common in local news. I longed to cover more substantive news, and topics people wanted to watch and listen and especially ones that were more in-depth.  The Why here at Newsy, is all about the most compelling topics of our time. In local news you get 2 minutes per story when you report. Maybe a few minutes anchoring per story in the newscast. What we do here at Newsy, and why I wanted to join this network was because it’s all about the core values of journalism. This type of program just doesn’t exist in the American media landscape. To get to do a deep dive for a half an hour on one topic, and switch and do another topic for the next half an hour is a dream for so many journalists (It’s a one hour show broken into two half hours on two topics per night). We get to take the time to talk about compelling topics. Bring on expert guests and real people voices to help us understand the why behind the headlines, so we can really explain stories and topics to the viewers. It’s an incredible opportunity for me to present this program across America every night to our viewers on TV, on streaming apps and however people want to watch thee days. We have a team that is so passionate about what they do every day. An incredible team of journalists here at Newsy and the network is owned by the legendary E.W Scripps company in America which is synonymous with quality and integrity in journalism.

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You’re discussing different topics-political, social, cultural… What’s your favorite topic as a reporter and as an anchor so far?

I’ve covered all kinds of topics in my career. I really enjoy covering foreign policy and international news/global affairs. That comes, I think, from a blend of my personal and professional background. Being Armenian raised with all the traditional European values. I speak Armenian, Russian and French. I was raised in America where I feel like I’m both American and European. I understand people from all over the world. So, for me there has been a real passion for bridging the divide and helping people understand the world around us through journalism and storytelling and sharing people’s experiences to help us understand.

Many times in my career when I’ve covered immigration for example, I’m an immigrant. I know first hand what those early years in a new country are like. People in those minority communities are more likely to open up to a journalist they can relate to. I think American TV is starting to embrace diversity more. When I started out, there were very few journalists who looked like me or had a name like mine. Just the other day, I had a young girl send me a message saying when she hears “This is The Why with Tatevik Aprikyan”, she said maybe one day a show will have my name like that too and your name is not a typical American name. She felt like someone like her was on TV and just that opening line to the show inspired her to believe it could be possible for her. It was so heartwarming.

Both my parents are doctors, so health news is also a passion of mine and a beat I’ve covered extensively for almost my entire career. I also know from watching my parent’s careers the behind the scenes of science and medicine and that helps me take very complicated medical stories and make them very clear and concise for the general public to understand. I’ve met incredible doctors, researchers and people who have shared some of their most wonderful and heartbreaking stories with me.  

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Tatevik, have you ever been to Armenia since you moved to The United States?

Yes, I’ve been back several times. It was about 10 years after moving to America when we came back to visit the first time. That summer, I swear my mother took us everywhere in Armenia- from Zvartnots to Garni, Geghard, to Tatev, Goris, Amberd, Echmiadzin, Noravank, Sevan, every historic site, church, we’d stay out in cafés in the evenings, see our cousins, grandparents and play with the kids in our building. My mother wanted us to really understand our country, history, meet our extend family and learn more since we were so young when we left. I have many cousins, aunts, uncles who still live in Yerevan. My grandparents still have their apartment on Orbeli. My other grandparents have a house in Tatev. My sister and I went back a few times after that first visit over the years.

I’ll be honest, it’s so fun to be back when no one in Armenia asks me how to pronounce Tatevik. I pronounce it a hundred times a day here! As my career took off, it’s really hard to take a long period of time off here in TV News. I was in Yerevan the last time several years ago in 2015 when I had a rare summer off to go to a few places in Europe and we all went back to Yerevan that year after my grandfather passed. It was an emotional time for my family to be there, but it was also an incredible opportunity to walk to the hospital, where I was born with my mother, and now all my cousins were adults and it was a memorable experience to see everyone again and catch up.

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Are there any Armenian traditions you keep?

I may have moved to America when I was five, but we grew up in a very traditional Armenian household, a very European upbringing. When we went back to Yerevan for the first time, everyone was shocked my sister and I spoke fluent Armenian. To us it was no different than coming home and talking to my parents every day. What traditions do we keep? Gosh I don’t know what ones we didn’t keep. My mom always cooked all the traditional Armenian food. We watched cartoons growing up, listened to Talin on cassette tapes, sing songs, my mom would make us learn the Armenian alphabet, when we were little my mom and dad always read bedtime stories for us in Armenian, we went to an Armenian church and had many Armenian family friends growing up. We always had Armenian music playing for birthdays and get togethers, my mom still cooks a feast like every Armenian mother for every single holiday, birthday or whenever anyone comes over. I used to teach my friends words and phrases in Armenian or Russian.

I’d say I’m definitely a mix of both Armenian and American cultures. America is home for me. I don’t think there would be another place in the world where little 5-year-old Tatevik could dream to become a television journalist one day, work so hard toward those dreams and to have my own national show, is something I cherish everyday and don’t take for granted. I always gravitated toward the American values of dreaming big, working hard and achieving your goals. It’s one of the most beautiful things about American culture, you’re taught at school, even at a very young age that you can be anything you want to be if you work hard. Of course a lot of work goes into whatever you choose to do. I hope one day I’ll inspire my own children to chase their dreams, keep going through the hard times, believe that’s it’s possible and remember your roots.

Do you plan to visit Armenia in the near future?

I’m sure I will come back to visit again one day.

Syune Arakelyan

Photos from Tatevik Aprikyan’s and Newsy's Facebook

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