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IPI: How to prepare Turkey’s journalists for a freer era?

International Press Institute at TGS Academy

International Press Institute has announced its latest report on the conditions of media & journalism in Turkey. The report is titled “It won’t always be like this: How to prepare Turkey’s jouırnalists for a freer era?” and has been prepared by IPI Turkey National Committee’s Emre Kızılkaya.

#dokuz8/Gürkan Özturan

Findings of a study conducted by International Press Institute IPI in Turkey on regional media and local journalists has been announced to the publicat Journalists Union of Turkey TGS’s Academy in Istanbul’s Şişli. The report has been announced to the press members by IPI Turkey National Committee Vice-President journalist Emre Kızılkaya who explained that the study is based on interviews with over 100 people including students of journalism, local correspondents, publishers, academics in the field of communications & journalism, between February-April 2019.

Historically IPI’s mission has been to promote press freedom and support quality journalism, and one of the basic problems in Turkey in all aspects has been revealed once again in this study and solution proposals have been developed in three workshop meetings based on design focused thinking method. On the final chapter of the 20 page report, there are proposals such as open source curriculum and a MOOC platform for students of journalism, community-driven ‘creative cafes’ and ‘journalism experience centres’, mapping trusted news organizations and loca reporters to assess trustworthiness and credibility, incubator and accelerator programmes to disrupt Turkey’s dysfunctional media, international internship programme for journalism students in Turkey, a new award to incentivize quality journalism in Turkey.

POLITICAL & ECONOMIC PRESSURE TARGETING MEDIA

While the report opens with the official figures that there are 2,474 newspapers, 108 television stations, 3,650 magazines and 899 radio stations and 72.9 percent of the population has access to the Internet, as well as 83.8 percent of homes, in the report it is also stated that Turkey presents a very hostile environment for independent media atmosphere and “critical news outlets also face multiple economic threats, including potential advertisers who are intimidated by the government into not doing business with certain media.” This, explains the report, prevents independent media from operating to a great extent, as this damages the potential for quality journalism and existing potential for growth as a result of constant intimidation of media.

IPI thus reveals a field study that addresses all the contemporary problems that media in Turkey is facing and targets potential funders as well as local correspondents and future journalists, the students of communications & journalism. IPI Turkey Committee’s study aims to become a valuable source for quality journalism’s development and for strong foundations to be laid for long-term development plans for quality journalism to settle in Turkey.

THREE JOURNALISM WORKSHOPS

Between February – April 2019, IPI has held three workshops with participation of 67 people in total with 34 students of journalism & communications from all seven regions of Turkey as well as 29 local correspondents from 19 provinces of Turkey, regional publishers. Moreover, 10 largest communications faculties have also been visited as part of the research study in Istanbul and Ankara to conduct face-to-face interviews with 21 students, 3 deans and 15 academics in the field. During the workshops there have also been conducted interviews with participants and finally these led to a design focused workshop sessions to be held in Istanbul with the aim of finding innovative solutions to the problems of the sector.

PROBLEMS OF MEDIA & JOURNALISM: CENSORSHIP, OUTDATED CURRICILIM, CONVENTIONAL PROGRAMS

In the conclusion chapter of the research study, the participants’ comments have also been included, “students stressed the need to have new, digitally focused courses in their curriculum, supported by required equipment and apps.” Moreover, students who participated in the study have reiterated their complaints regarding ‘censorship’ as they stated “even school paper applies censorship as the faculty dean turns the paper into a public relations outlet.” Young journalist candidates also complain due to lack of places that they can apply to, for innovative opportunities, instead of outdated models based on curriculum that has been used for a long time and not having any digital focus.

For the regional media and publishers, the plummeting of Turkish Lira and lack of revenues from public body ‘Press Advertisement Agency’ is presenting a serious economic threat, causing many media institutions to remain on the brink of bankruptcy in 2019. Local ownership relations and nationally operating media’s downsizing of regional bureaus is creating deserts of ‘newsless zones’ especially in the rural heartland of the country, including Kurdish-majority towns and cities.

SIX PROPOSALS AS SOLUTIONS

The report states that ‘citizen journalism’ efforts continue across the country at the local levels but this would be far from presenting an ideal scenario for development of media in Turkey when the pressure could be lifted, for generating quality journalism. The report thus presents six potential solutions for media atmosphere in Turkey:

1- The platform will be the main go-to place for anyone, including citizen journalists, from any province in Turkey, to get equipped with the information, mindset and skills to produce quality journalism. Kurdish and Arabic-language content can also be added. The platform will be organized as a massive open online course (MOOC) and would also function as a forum for volunteer journalism educators – who can be selected from among respected journalists and academics – and students.

2- Journalism is more than commodity news and the audience should also learn more about it. Meanwhile, reporters, especially in local communities across Turkey, need places and events to sharpen their creativity and engage with their communities while doing so. Opening a community-driven creative cafe in Antalya or Trabzon, for instance, can foster collaboration and boost creative thinking in these provinces.

3- Mapping trusted news organizations and local reporters to assess trustworthiness and credibility. A “Web of Trust” for journalism in Turkey, particularly at the local level in which news providers are largely unknown to outsiders, can make the work of manipulators harder while supporting the “idealist” journalists there.

4- Incubator and accelerator programmes to disrupt Turkey’s dysfunctional media. With a larger programme of incubation, co-working spaces like creative cafes can be expanded to provide journalism start-ups access to a network of similar companies, mentors, research, events and other valuable resources for learning how to build and grow a media business from scratch.

5- International internship programme for journalism students in Turkey. A sponsored internship programme, in which students can experience journalism at the world’s leading media outlets, may bring enormous benefits to the development of quality journalism in Turkey. It will not only widen the horizons of the participating students, but also contribute to improving their foreign language skills.

6- A new award to incentivize quality journalism in Turkey.The new award should be designed as a prestigious, professional acknowledgement of journalistic talent to incentivize production of original content for the public interest. Most journalism awards in Turkey either lack relevant categories, including digital ones, or fail to provide any meaningful financial benefit to applicants.

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