Tag Archives: journalism

A Reporter’s Reflections: the Huriyet Daily News

by Eli Markham

During our second to last morning in Istanbul, a number of Globalist reporters met with David Judson, a columnist for Hurriyet, Turkey’s largest English-language daily.

A self-described “heretic among the Christians,” Judson spoke about the differences between the state of journalism in America and Turkey. Judson, who was the Editor-in-Chief of Hurriyet until two months ago, was explicit that Turkey is not a friendly country for journalists, but said that America might not be much better.

Turkey is notorious for imprisoning journalists, and Judson said that several of his friends are in prison. Prosecution of journalists routinely earns Turkey poor scores from Reporter’s without Borders.

However, Turkey does have a wealth of different political viewpoints. Istanbul, a city about the size of New York, has thirty different major daily newspapers, while New York has only five. Other large American cities, such as Los Angeles and Chicago, only have one daily newspaper each. This creates what Judson termed a “diversity of perspective,” even in a place which is lacking “freedom of the press.”

America rarely imprisons its reporters, but there is no diversity in their coverage. When multiple news outlets cover the same event, they all produce similar stories, which Judson attributed to the “cricket effect.” Under this logic, all reporters conform to the same angle, which is generally that of the Associated Press or The New York Times.

“If you send two journalists to cover something you’ll get two stories, but if you send ten journalists you’ll only get one,” Judson said.

He gave numerous examples from his career in which he had tried to write a true story, but was drowned out by the louder voices of hysteria. For example, in his coverage of the L.A. earthquake he made the point that it hadn’t actually been catastrophic, something no one else wanted to hear.

Judson, sadly, suggested no remedies for the problem of media synchronization, only an exhortation to be willing to go against the tide.

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A Reporter’s Reflections: Cyprus

by Emily Ullmann

Sophomore Associate Editor Emily Ullmann thought she encountered a confusing world of media and journalism in Turkey: but it’s nothing like the complexity of Cyprus.

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Staying in the Republic of Cyprus side of the divided city of Nicosia, I only had to walk for five minutes to cross the border into the north. Armed guards checked my passport and stamped my visa on my way to speak to Perihan Aziz, director of the Turkish News Agency (Turkish acronym TAK), in what is really just the northern half of the city. TAK is a news agency that gives news in return for money to the fourteen government-subsidized papers in northern Cyprus (thirteen of which are in northern Nicosia).

The border crossing between north and south (Ullmann/TYG)

Aziz explained that TAK is an independent, objective agency that can and will write about everything, a situation that is in contrast to that in Turkey. TAK does its best to inform the northern Cypriot population of news in the south, publishing a news summary based on southern papers. Aziz described the press in northern Cyprus as a reflection of the political situation there. “Newspapers are supported by political parties, but this is not a problem because each party has their own paper,” she said.

Aziz also pointed out the contrast between this objectivity and journalism in southern Cyprus, which she deemed far too influenced by the Greek Orthodox Church. “Northern Cyprus does a better job separating politics, religion, and press than the south,” Aziz explained.

However, back in southern Nicosia, we heard a strikingly different story. Stefanos Evripidou, the Cyprus news editor at the Cyprus Mail criticized journalism on both sides of the island, but noted that the north, dominated by the government, is far worse. Most papers in the south, where people view the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus as an illegal occupation of the island, refer to the organizations and institutions as “pseudo” or “so-called.”

The spectre of Hellenism and the Greek Orthodox Church hangs over the Republic of Cyprus, while Ankara hangs heavily over the TRNC. (Ullmann/TYG)

Similarly, Orestis Tringides and Dogukan Muezzinler, both of whom we got in contact through the organization The Cypriots’ Voices, described the Cypriot press as involving self-imposed censorship that is largely influenced by political links. Tringides and Muezzinler criticized Cyprus’s status as one of only four EU nations that has not signed onto Freedom of Information laws, which means that successful journalists must rely on well-established contacts. Tringides also explained that there is a relatively new tradition of journalism on the island, and even that tradition focuses more on advocacy journalism than any sort of investigative journalism. “Newspapers and news channels operate as mouthpieces for political parties and corporations,” Tringides said.

By the end of these meetings, my head was spinning in a whirl of he-said, she-said. Every story seemed slightly different and everyone seemed ready to point fingers, accusing the other side of faults and flaws. Yet these four passionate people, all so critical, failed to offer any real suggestions or solutions to the problems. With the exception of the opening of the north-south border in 2003, the Cypriot conflict has been stale since 1974 and people here do not seem to believe that significant change will happen in the near future.

From an outsider’s perspective, I cannot help but wonder how change can happen in a society where journalism and people’s concepts of reality are so skewed. How can the people demand accountability from their government if they have a press that does not inform them of what their government is doing? And why do the Cypriots not seem to desire a press that does this?

Journalism in Cyprus has become a source of misinformation and propaganda, but as with the case of the political conflict, the people seem content with the status quo. Before arriving here, my question regarding the Cyprus situation was, is it sustainable? I have come to realize that the issues in journalism are just another symptom of the greater problem of apathy among Cypriots. Until Cypriots decide they want to actually find a solution, it will not happen.

A Reporter’s Reflections: Istanbul

by Emily Ullmann

Sophomore Associate Editor Emily Ullmann is tracking the experience of reporting in a country without a free press as we make our way through Turkey. Halfway through the trip, she reflects on what this meant in Istanbul. Keep a lookout for her further reflections on making her way through Cyprus.

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“The Turkish people are not used to journalism. There is a division between society and journalism.”

As we sat on a rooftop terrace overlooking the strait of Bosphorus in Istanbul, Mahmut Çinar, professor of journalism at Bahçesehir University in Istanbul, explained to a small group of us the challenges journalists face in Turkey. Çinar described that as one of the most hated professions in Turkey today, journalists struggle to report because they face little popular support and lack any basic respect.

Mahmut Çinar, a professor of Journalism at B.U./credit: courtesy of European Journalism Centre

This perspective came as a surprise to me, despite following the evolving story of detained journalists and press freedom in Turkey. Although considered freer than most other nations in the Middle East, Turkey ranks as one of the worst nations of the world in terms of freedom of the press. All of the information I had read led me to believe that, much to the dismay the Turkish people, the government continues to censor its papers and tighten its grip on reporters.

Yet, when we spoke with Çinar, the picture became far more nuanced. Çinar’s students at Bahçesehir had experienced governmental constraints on their journalistic voices, with some even being detained and interrogated for several hours after attempting to report; however, Çinar also mentioned that he did not believe that the government really censored, he simply considered Turkey less free than the U.S.

“I don’t say there’s no censorship in Turkey. There is censorship, but not like you see from the outside. We don’t have chains restricting us.”

During our conversation, it occurred to me that perhaps my views of press freedom were so shaped by the U.S. that I could not totally grasp the implications of Çinar’s students’ experiences.

“I teach a class on Media Ethics for journalists. When my students have internships, they come back and tell me, ‘I’m sorry, but this [class] is useless.’”

From Çinar’s point of view, the lack of a tradition of free media in Turkey means that many journalists here self-censor and do not report on so-called “taboos,” like Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the first president of Turkey, or the Armenian genocide. In contrast to the investigative journalism in the United States that often uncovers problems in the government and society, Turkish tradition holds that journalists report on some topics while totally avoiding some of the most hard-hitting questions.

As a journalist for the Globalist, I arrived in Istanbul with the intention of finding issues and controversies in Turkey, so this concept of self-censorship of taboos seems so foreign. In fact, in a nation where journalists avoid the toughest questions, those posed by my fellow Globalist reporters, whether about the Kurdish language or Muslim neighborhood pressures, seem even more crucial to answer.