Shop Notes

Turkish journalists explore investigative reporting feasability

Posted: March 7, 2011 | Tags: Charles Lewis

Five Turkish journalists met with interns, reporters and Executive Editor Charles Lewis last week to discuss the role of investigative journalism in the U.S. media, continuing the Investigative Reporting Workshop's ongoing relationship with overseas journalists.

The five journalists represented print, online and broadcast media in Turkey:

• Bahar Bakir, Diplomatic Correspondent, Haber Turk Daily

• Ozden Erkus, Diplomatic Correspondent, NTV

• Sevin Turan, Planet Page Editor, Hurriyet Online

• Murat Korhan Varol, Senior Correspondent; Editor, ATV

• Engin Yilmas, Correspondent, Channel D

Sevin Turan asked the question they were all pondering: What is the difference between investigative journalism and journalism?

Intern Kari Barber talked about the project “Flying Cheap” to describe the investigative reporting process: collecting government documents, interviewing sources and analyzing the information. Barber said that the “Flying Cheap” investigation went on for a year before the documentary was ready to air, and it led to the follow-up investigation, “Flying Cheaper,” which aired on PBS FRONTLINE in January.

Bahar Bakir said that working at a daily newspaper would not allow her enough time to focus on one longterm story.

The interns explained that traditional U.S. media outlets faced the same issue, and investigative reporting positions are among the first positions cut because of decreasing budgets. Reporter Will Cummings said the demand for online news has also impacted the decrease in newspaper circulation.

“All because of the Internet?” asked Ozden Erkus. Reading news online is not widespread in Turkey, he said. Internet users in Turkey are usually young people, he said, and most people prefer to read newspapers.

“Newspapers are still the tradition,” said Bakir. “People like to hold it in their hands.”

Erkus also said that citizens pay an annual fee to fund Turkey’s state-run broadcast media. When someone buys a TV, they also have to pay a sales fee for the state media.

“Every TV sold in Turkey comes with a label on the back,” said Turan, indicating that a portion of the sale must go to the state media.

Limited press freedom in Turkey influences the level of watchdog journalism they can do and to what extent they can criticize the government, Erkus said. Censorship pressure is high, especially with five journalists currently in prison for criticizing the government.  Although the journalists can request government documents, the Turkish government is under no obligation to release them.

The cross-cultural exchange was part of a 10-day program arranged by the Phelps Stokes organization and the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program. The goals of the program are to show the journalists:

• The role of responsible, ethical investigative journalism in a democracy;

• The role of the media in civil society;

• The use of media in governmental accountability; 

• Ethics, accuracy, and journalistic integrity; and

• The impact of new technologies and new media on standards, practices and institutions of investigative journalism in the United States.

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