In search of an editor

In search of an editor

I will start with a mistake that caught my eye yesterday, one day after Saturday [Oct. 10]’s horrific events in Ankara: “Serkan Demirtaş, leader of the pro-Kurdish party and big surprise of the previous elections, in his statement was specific. He accused the Turkish president directly about the terrorist attack,” etc. 

It was part of an in-depth analysis article by a “Turkey specialist” on the situation in Turkey, posted on Huffington Post Greece yesterday. The site, incidentally, only recently has changed its editor-in-chief.  The title of the article was “Turkey is at war…”

Of course, I do not need to remind any reader of this newspaper that Serkan Demirtaş is not the leader of a pro-Kurdish party, but Hurriyet Daily New’s Ankara bureau chief and eminent analyst of Turkish affairs. We all read his well-informed analyses on Turkey. Maybe the columnist of did too, before embarking in his analysis. Needless to say, everybody who in any way is in the business of writing, especially news, should double check their text if it is to be printed or posted. 

Yet, this serious oversight on a highly popular news site that aims at “catching the news as it happens” and promises us, under its logo, that it will “Inform, Inspire, Entertain, Empower” shows a deeper problem in the approach of today’s media business models. One of the victims of the much leaner editorial hierarchy of today’s news outlets --for the sake of economy or speed-- has the position of an editor. 

According to the textbook definition, an editor should correct, condensate, organize and modify in any way, in order to produce correct, consistent, accurate and complete work. At well-organized news media organizations, copy editors are doing a very important job, checking for accuracy and making sure that nothing unfair or of bad taste is being written or posted. Often --and this is extremely important-- they may even write the title of an article.

Yet, it is a common knowledge to anybody involved in the news business that this “second-eye” is simply omitted these days for the sake of economizing on staff or not considered necessary, especially on online journalism sites. 

But, in order to not break basic editorial rules myself (namely the principle of fairness), let me add this: Careless journalism and the absence of an editor, can also been observed in Turkish media, often in printed media. One example which may not be so important per se, but it is interesting by its persistency, is the insistence of many Turkish news and magazine writers on misspelling the name of the most popular island in Greece (and the most visited by Turks), Mykonos. For some reason unknown to me, it continues to be written as “Mikanos,” both printed and on online sites. And, obviously, it was not important for the editor-in-chief of one of the most popular high society Turkish magazines to spell the island’s name correctly when she wrote a full two-page illustrated article on her visit to “Mikanos.”

But these are details, you may say. What is important these days, in an age when fundamental journalism ethics are not even taught at journalism schools, let alone practiced in the profession, is speed versus accuracy. Eventually, we accept any mistake, any error. This is not a crime, after all, they say.

But these are sad days, for Turkey. And difficult days for any media person directly or indirectly linked with its coverage. We better be more careful.