Hürriyet chairwoman announces sabbatical break from her post
‘Hürriyet is one of the symbolic institutions of independent journalism in Turkey. Our pages have to be open to everyone,’ says Vuslat Doğan Sabancı.Hürriyet chairwoman Vuslat Doğan Sabancı has announced that she will take a break from her post, which she has retained for seven years, in her first interview with the daily in a career that spanned 20 years.
“Of course, I am not leaving. I am merely taking a sabbatical. I have been working non-stop at Hürriyet for the past 20 years. However, there are some issues that I’ve long wanted to focus on various projects, yet had always postponed. I am stepping down as the Chairwoman in order to make time for those issues. But I will still be on the Board of Directors,” Doğan Sabancı told Hürriyet’s supplements editor Çınar Oskay.
Doğan Sabancı said she will focus on the role of media in the polarizing world and seek solutions on how media can be platform for better conversations at this day and age. She will do this by collaborating and conferring with opinion leaders. “I would like to reach a point where media can host ‘better conversations’ where different or even conflicting opinions can be expressed with respect. This is what really excites me,” Doğan Sabancı said, that she would dive into philosophical and academic discussions and eventually hope to come up with substantial projects.
Doğan Sabancı also argued that globalization and the digital revolution instead of getting people closer in communication has made them retrieve to their own homes with likeminded people in fear. So, she said, the promised of “one big happy family” turned into many hostile villages.
The situation subsequently led to intolerance and polarization forcing the whole world to take sides.
Doğan Sabancı stated that she also felt the “pressure to take sides” at Hürriyet as a media executive.
“Of course, I have. And Hürriyet is in an extra tight spot, too. Surveys show that Hürriyet is Turkey’s most pluralist media outlet in terms of reader demographics. And to be honest, it is not easy to hold on to that position. Because everybody is trying to pull you to their side. This includes people who wish to benefit from polarization, as well. Ultimately, Hürriyet is one of the symbolic institutions of independent journalism in Turkey. Our pages have to be open to everyone,” Doğan Sabancı said, adding that the daily is successful in that manner but could do even better and that it is the exact reason why she is entering the phase of research.
Decision not linked to upcoming referendum
Doğan Sabancı also stressed that she took the decision personally, irrespective of the daily events and the political atmosphere of the country, particularly ahead of the April 16 referendum on constitutional amendments including a shift to an executive presidential system.
She stated that the sudden death of one of her closest friends in an avalanche had triggered her decision to take the sabbatical, prompting her to reflect about life and to work on the vision she postponed.
“It was the first time a close friend of mine, someone my own age, died unexpectedly. I was truly shaken. It urged me to sit down and take stock of my life. We are not the real owners of any position of status or power that we hold. Acknowledging this grants you a very different sense of freedom,” Doğan Sabancı said.
After graduating from Economics at Bilkent University, Doğan Sabancı worked at The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. She received her master’s degree in International Relations and Media at Columbia University. Doğan Sabancı launched and managed the digitalization process of Hürriyet in 1997. Between 2000 and 2010, she had acted as the board member of the Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) representing Turkey and later elected for the lifetime honorary IPI membership.
Doğan Sabancı became the CEO of Hürriyet in 2004 and later held the chairwoman post in 2010.
She also initiated a number of social responsibility projects including “No to Domestic Violence” in 2005 and initiated the domestic violence hotline for the first time in the country. In 2011, she began to work for the “Micro credit project for housewives.” She has been conducting projects for the correct recognition of Islam abroad since 2015.
Doğan Sabancı is married to Pegasus Airlines chair Ali Sabancı and is a mother of two sons.