Cem Emir’s final words of advice to the Daily News

Cem Emir’s final words of advice to the Daily News

All newspapers are more than the sum of their apparent parts, particularly at a small newspaper with a large mission such as the Hürriyet Daily News. You will seldom see the scribes’ bylines, but the reporting backbone here is really the team of the Doğan News Agency (DHA).

So a rare word honoring the anonymous support and guidance given this newspaper by Cem Emir, the 26-year-old journalist whose lifeless body was pulled from the wreckage late Friday from the collapsed Bayram Hotel in Van, is in order.

On many occasions during the years I edited the Daily News, DHA and its general manager, Uğur Cebeci, were always there to respond to the odd request: the interview with a local mayor we could not reach ourselves, the photographer to aid one of our own reporters visiting an Anatolian city, the informal and invaluable advice on the lay of the land in a distant locale.

All journalists in Turkey today mourn Cem and his colleague Sebahattin Yılmaz, who were caught in the hotel that collapsed Wednesday. They died in the second killer quake in as many weeks that killed 40, including a Japanese physician.

But the pain at Cem’s death is really for one of our own, for a young reporter who supported us from his base in the critical and news-dense city of Diyarbakır time and time again. I never actually met Cem, but we exchanged a few emails.

I always guessed his fondness for the newspaper and his willingness to help was born of the fact he began his career at Evrensel, the feisty socialist daily. Many a Daily News editor began his or her career at the same newspaper, and they form a resilient brotherhood that spans the Turkish media.

Saturday morning when I learned the hopes for Cem’s rescue had ended, I called Şafak Timur, a former editor who is now a correspondent for Agence France-Presse. It was she who communicated most regularly with Cem, and who I recalled had turned to him for advice a year or so ago on a trip to Diyarbakır.

She recalled that it was Cem who brought to light the continuing scandal of widespread sexual abuse in an elementary school in the province of Siirt that continues to haunt Turkey’s educational establishment and justice system. Other journalists harvested awards for the story, but it was Cem who was there first. Thus is the fate of agency journalists.

She produced his last email of advice to the Daily News. Among his recommendations was that we interview local historian Şeyhmus Diken on the long history of newspapers published in both Turkish and Kurdish in Diyarbakır. He challenged us to broaden our reach and go beyond what he called the “sharply pointed perspectives” that characterized the city’s politics but did not reflect its full reality.

“A reality here,” Cem wrote us, “is that there are dozens of stories that have never gotten out of the back streets and need to be told.”

In my own experience, there are really two kinds of journalists: those who seek glory and those who seek to change the world. Cem was of the latter, and the world needs more like him.

My condolences at his death go out to his family. To his colleagues goes my hope that we may honor his life by telling those untold stories from Diyarbakır’s back streets