Farewell to a master of words...
Many years ago, in early 1997, I was invited to the headquarters of Milliyet in Istanbul.
I was a young “editor at large,” just at the beginning of my second – and last – return to what was then the “Turkish” but has now become the “Hürriyet” Daily News. It was a very exciting event. Leaving the Ankara village, going to Istanbul and sitting in talks with the “giants of Turkish journalism” was a very exciting moment even for an editor at large.
Apparently, I exaggerated a lot. It turned out that I was invited for a discussion on online journalism. Though the Daily News, because of my insistence on launching it on May 19, 1996 – as a tribute to the anniversary of the 1919 start of the Turkish War of Liberation – narrowly missed out on becoming the first electronic Turkish newspaper instead of Zaman. Thus, both the Daily News and I, who initiated and personally wrote the entire site plan and undertook the HTML work of it, enjoyed prominent prestige.
Milliyet has always been a paper that contributed greatly to Turkish literature by publishing and distributing valuable literary works. Apparently, the newly appointed “electronic editor” of Milliyet wanted to include a panel discussion on electronic journalism on the sidelines of a book fair and invited me to discuss how to plan the event together. That was indeed a great idea and for many years, panel discussions on electronic media became an integrated part of such fairs.
The subject was interesting. I was very much interested in such issues. Yet, either because the people at Milliyet thought I was an “alien” to the subject or were unaware what they were talking about, they kept on beating around the bush and could not come to the point. After hours of a long, boring discussion, I made like a sailor who kisses the ground after a troubled long sail when I finally got out of the meeting.
The Istanbul of those years, as is still now, was like a jungle to me. While getting out of the front door of Milliyet, I was wondering what to do until my plane late in the afternoon. Perhaps, I said, I should go to a restaurant or café and wait for the plane. As I was busy pondering what to do, I saw one of the two idols of Turkish journalism, Hasan Pulur, getting out of his car. Was he accompanied by security guards, I do not recall. Those were times when he, like many other prominent people, were getting frequent death threats. As he was walking toward the front door, I saluted him. He was a very humble man. He accepted my greeting and we engaged in a typical Turkish doorstep discussion. I introduced myself very briefly. He, apparently a close friend of my boss of the time, interrupted and asked about the health situation of İlhan Çevik. Çevik was feared to have been suffering from cancer but checks in Houston proved it was a wrong diagnosis.
Contrary to what people thought, Hasan Pulur and Çetin Altan were not “too elitist;” instead, Pulur was a very modest, warm and embracing man.
It was a “doorstep meeting” that lasted for about five minutes or so. Years later, I encountered him once again in front of another building. This time I was entering the Hürriyet Holding building for a meeting and he was coming out. “Hello, Hasan Bey,” I said without having much expectation that he would remember me or our first encounter at the front door of Milliyet. He looked at my face with a questioning face and within second replied back, “How are you, Yusuf Bey, how are things going… I heard you’ve become the editor of the Daily News…”
I was shocked. A man of his caliber could remember my name and, even more, was following me to the extent of knowing my recently appointed position at the newspaper. By that time the paper had joined the Hürriyet group, the previous owners, the Çeviks, though not forgotten, had already receded into the distant past for many. Yet, he once again asked about his old friend, Çevik, and I explained to him that he was having some health problems.
I invited him for a cup of coffee. With a large fatherly smile on his face he suggested a coffee in the VIP section on the ground floor of Hürriyet building.
During that short discussion, Pulur once again captured my heart and mind with his immense knowledge of Turkish society. Besides, his humane touch on all topics we discussed reminded me of why I admired him so much as a man who could write the most difficult issues about “people and events” – the headline of his column.
Çetin Altan walked to eternity a while ago. Pulur passed away Sunday and was laid to eternal rest yesterday.
Turkish journalism and the literary world are not the same with their departure.