Turkish journalism today suffers from old and new ills. On the one hand, fast-paced journalism of the digital age that focuses on
Turkish journalism today suffers from old and new ills. On the one hand, fast-paced journalism of the digital age that focuses on headlines and news flashes tends to neglect nuance and content. On the other hand, Turkey never had a strong tradition of quality journalism that is independent from the pressure of authorities be them associated with the government, military or big business. While the powerful few almost always have an impact on editorial decision making through their direct control of advertising revenues, newsrooms rarely open themselves to feedback, criticism and participation of ordinary news consumers.
Through its first series of interactive journalism workshops, P24 plans to discuss how certain subjects are currently covered by the Turkish media: Who or what does influence, shape, limit or censor the coverage? Can journalists develop and introduce a different approach to their profession?
The objective of each workshop will be to bring together experts, journalism students and professional journalists in a truly interactive discussion. The workshops will aim to not only define existing problems in the Turkish media and focus on known alternatives worldwide, but also look for novel approaches that are now within the range of possibility thanks to digital technology and increased social media penetration.
The goal of the series is also to help produce fine examples of journalism as student participants will be assigned to write articles and/or produce video stories based on what they learn at each workshop. Speakers and moderators will continue to work with student participants and help them through the production of their journalistic work.
P24 plans to bring these workshops to other venues in Turkey and its region once the first round in Istanbul is completed.
Discussion at each workshop will begin with a brief presentation by the moderator and/or speakers on “how the media cover the news today” to be followed by a conversation on “how the news should be covered.”
Producing journalistic work that reflects the conclusions of the latter will be expected of student participants. Best works will be awarded and published by T24 and other media outlets.
At the end of each workshop, the moderator will write a brief report on “what to do/what not to do” while covering each specific subject.
VENUE / PARTICIPATION / FORMAT
Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir University (BAU) will host the “How to Cover” series at their Karaköy campus and encourage the participation of BAU students.
There will be no participation fee, however participants will be asked to register in advance.
P24 plans to have approximately 20 students, no more than 10 professional journalists and about 4-5 speakers in each workshop.
All participants will be seated around a large oval table and expected to take an active part in the discussion. A lecturer-listener hierarchy will be discouraged at the workshops and moderators will ensure interaction between experts, students and professional journalists.
Workshops will be held, January 2014-May 2014, on weekdays during hours that best suit the class schedule of faculty students. Each workshop will be a one-day event. Most workshops will be completed in 3-5 hour sessions.
1) HOW TO COVER THE ECONOMY
Is it journalists or advertisers that decide what gets published on the business pages of a newspaper or what is reported during the financial segment of TV news programs? How close/distant should business reporters be to the companies they cover? Do journalists today really understand the economic data they report? Why do business journalists often ignore labor issues such as workplace safety?
Honest answers to these questions lead us to a gloomy picture of the current state of financial journalism in Turkey. How can reporters and analysts bring much-needed change to the scene? What are some of the business stories that can be told differently?
A discussion with experienced journalists who not only know how economy is covered in Turkey, but also how it should and can be covered may encourage their younger colleagues and students to start doing things differently.
Coordinator: Murat Sabuncu February 27, 2014
2) HOW TO COVER THE POLICE AND THE JUDICIARY
Turkey experiences grave problems as a result of both regulations and practices of its law-enforcement and judiciary branches. The authority bestowed on the police force and the manner that authority is exercised need to be put under scrutiny as does the current state of the courts. Most human rights violations take place at the hands of the police and the judiciary.
The police beat: Covering the police beat is also very problematic. With very few exceptions, police reporters work under the influence of the police. To cite one example of “reporting under influence,” just think of how many times we have heard from police reporters in Turkey that a youth killed by the police while exercising his/her lawful right to protest had participated in “unlawful” activities before. Newspapers are full of stories that try to explain, even legitimize murders and maltreatment by the police. Those detained in a police raid are automatically labeled as “terrorist, murderer or trafficker” by the media even before they have their day in court.
It is also part of our experience in the Turkish media that law-enforcement officers carry out certain operations by planting stories in the press prior to -- and sometimes instead of – taking the matter to the courts. There are dozens of people who have never been convicted of a crime or not even tried for one, but were targeted by defamation campaign in the press that were clearly orchestrated by the police.
We also have a serious problem of “language” in covering the police beat -- the reporters’ language frequently reproducing and multiplying the problems of the use of excessive force by the police.
Turkish police reporters need to change their approach to this important beat and develop a new language. We have to look at this as “the power of language v. the language of power” and apply the former while resisting the latter.
The court beat: Coverage of the judiciary branch in general and reporting on the courts in particular are still in its early stages of evolution in Turkey. During the post-modern coup of 1997, for example, we witnessed a kind of “prosecutor-oriented” reporting as state prosecutors managed to shape the public opinion by using friendly journalists and news organizations. Violations of privacy became common in news stories that were part of defamation operations orchestrated by the prosecutor’s office.
Also, there is the routine reporting of court decisions, which is satisfied with repeating the judge’s statements without making an effort to further investigate.
Attorney-oriented court reporting is relatively new in Turkey and it, too, has its pluses and minuses.
In both the police and court beats, the traditions of media companies and their ownership are also part of the problem.
Coordinator: Doğan Akın March 13, 2014
3) HOW TO COVER DISCRIMINATION-RELATED ISSUES
'Otherisation' and hate speech is two of the deepest problems in Turkish journalism. It has become so internalized that one can even speak of automatic writing and robotic news-construction. The habits, which have become contagious in conventional news media, have now been invading even more explicitly the domain of internet and social media.
Lately we have seen some of the taboos broken - such as the ones about the Kurds, Greeks, Armenians etc - but others remain - on LGBT etc. Another new trend is the discrimination that flares up over sectarian and cross-religion lines, and blasphemy.
How to break the vicious circle in cliche (re)productions? Which approaches apply in an environment where editors show flaws in fairness and balance? How to fight most efficiently hate speech? What are the most common practices in covering issues which relate to discrimination and what are the good ones?
Coordinator: Yavuz Baydar
4) HOW TO COVER THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR
Turkish cities in general and Istanbul in particular are in the throes of enormous change. For Istanbul alone there are a series of huge projects, not just a new bridge across the Bosphorus but a new Bosphorus itself – a canal cutting the Thracian peninsula. While public opinion in the UK, for example, has resisted the construction of a third runway for Heathrow, public opinion in Turkey appears acquiescent in the building of a third airport with SIX runways.
What is the impetus behind this construction frenzy, what is the environmental impact, what is the consultation process that precedes these projects? And who benefits for these projects and who pays for if things go wrong? These are questions that are scarcely asked in the Turkish media.
Covering the construction sector brings together environmentalists, financiers and urban planners to encourage proper media attention of a series of major issues.
Coordinator: Andrew Finkel April 24, 2014
4) HOW TO COVER NUCLEAR ENERGY ISSUES
Plans for nuclear power have been a key aspect of Turkey’s aim for economic growth ever since 1970s, however the country still has no nuclear reactors.
This is about to change as the AKP government has taken steps toward an ambitious construction program that envisages four nuclear power plants all meant to have started generating energy by 2023 -- the republic’s centennial.
Russia’s Rosatom and a Japanese-French consortium that includes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd, one of the builders of the Fukushima plants, are chosen to build Turkey’s first nuclear reactors on Mediterranean and Black Sea coasts.
What are the risks of nuclear energy and what is Turkey’s capacity to manage these risks? What is the investment model foreseen for the construction and operation of Turkey’s first power plants? How does Turkey’s decision to become a nuclear power correspond to its security and nonproliferation policies? What has Ankara learned from Chernobyl and Fukushima incidents? Or, plainly asked, does Turkey have a nuclear policy that embraces all aspects of the issue – safety, security, environmental effects, financial burden and energy needs?
Turkish media seem to lack the social interest and technical background to seek answers to these questions. What should we discuss when we discuss nuclear energy in the media? How can reporters and columnists educate themselves to become literate in nuclear energy issues?
Coordinator: Yasemin Çongar May 8, 2014
5) HOW TO COVER CELEBRITIES: JOURNALISM v. INFOTAINMENT
How much of an interest do people’s private lives hold for us? Is it journalism’s duty to satisfy this interest? If yes; up to what point?
Here we are in the territory of “celebrity, or as it is sometimes called, people journalism” – a beat at which responsible reporting is frequently put on hold.
What are the current standards of celebrity journalism? How are reporters trained? What is expected of them? What goes on between journalists and celebrities? What kinds of deals are worked out behind the scenes? How much of the “news” is actually written by celebrities’ PR agents?
Equally important is the question of ethical standards of a journalism that is focused on private lives and rumors. Can’t we have interesting journalism with higher standards? What kind of language do we use when we talk about celebrities? What does it mean that we are on a first-name basis especially with women celebrities? Do we treat models, football players, business leaders and entertainers differently?
Where should we draw the line to voyeurism in covering the life of famous people? When do we violate intimacy? Does moralism on the news pages sometimes turn us blind to the truth about people? Or is it the pornography on those pages that render the truth meaningless?
What can be a realistic alternative to the methods commonly employed by reporters working the celebrity beat? And have we started treating every person as a celebrity? Are we engaged in infotainment? Does journalism have to entertain?
Coordinator: Hazal Özvarış May 22, 2014
6) SOCIAL MEDIA AND CITIZEN JOURNALISM
By every passing day, more and more Turkish people abandon print media to get their news online.
However the shift is not only from print to digital: Many internet users are also turning their back to traditional news sites and putting their trust in social media outlets instead. Twitter and Facebook are where we learn what is happening right now.
Citizen journalists equipped with not much else but smart phones are sharing their photos and videos from where the news is breaking in real time, long before professional journalists can catch up with them. For their part, Internet users post their comments and questions directly to those “citizen journalists” who post the news, providing for a rather fast-paced and usually very transparent interaction.
During the Gezi protests in Istanbul in June 2013, social media (Twitter, Facebook, individual blogs) and online news sites such a T24 were at the forefront of Turkish journalism as mainstream media outlets, including all major tv channels censored the story. According to a New York University study, at least 2 million tweets mentioning hashtags related to the protest, such as #direngeziparkı (950,000 tweets), #occupygezi (170,000 tweets) or #geziparki (50,000 tweets) were sent in the first week of demonstrations. Social media outlets and citizen journalists ensured that news was covered despite intimidation by the authorities.
However, this new style of journalism is not always foolproof and accurate. Social media can also be misinformed, misleading, propagandistic and provocative.
How should journalists use the social media? What are the ways to filter and fight some common ills of the social media, from disinformation to defamation? What can traditional journalists learn from citizen journalists? How much room there should be for citizen journalism in traditional news outlets?
Coordinator: Doğan Akın April 17, 2014
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