Journalism for a cause challenges professional norms
This is the first time I have disclosed it. It was in the 1990s, it was a bayram (holiday) morning. I had been expelled from Antalya by my boss, Aydın Doğan, in the presence of my wife.
When I learned that the editors-in-chief of dailies Star, Akşam and Güneş were recently removed, I remembered this incident. I'll tell you why.
Those who are defending these three colleagues of ours, almost all of them, mention a “common cause.” All of them have the disappointment of the rebels who started the Cuba Revolution with the Moncada Raid. The first heroes of the war now have a common feeling of having been dismissed by “turncoats” such as Yiğit Bulut, who came from the other neighborhood.
I understand that feeling.
If you really see yourself not as a journalist, but as a “fighter of a cause,” then it is normal for you to explain this conduct with a “betrayal” psychology.
Well, what is this “cause” that has been going on for 12 years? This war, which is still ongoing, who is that war being fought against? And why are they not talking about journalism at all? It is because if they associate the incident with journalism, instead of a cause, then these questions will appear:
- Look, you were heading papers that supported the government. It is your most democratic right to support the government. Moreover, looking at the votes it has gained, the government you are supporting is politically successful.
- Well, why can’t the newspapers that support the government, which received 43 percent of the votes of the people, even reach 20 percent of the total circulation figures in the country?
- Why, despite the money piled up by trucks in the "pool," have Star’s sales figures dropped down to 16,000?
- Why can’t the sales figures of daily Yeni Şafak, which terrorizes the environment, reach decent numbers? In this case, doesn’t the boss, who has put so much money into this, have the right to say “one minute?”
I occupied the position of editor-in-chief of Hürriyet for 20 years. Every day, there were two very critical moments, life and death moments. They were the times when circulation figures were provided for me twice a day.
Every week at executive committees, every three months at corporate boards, I was questioned about circulation figures, advertisement revenue, and the paper's journalism performance.
When our rival daily Sabah outsold us, Doğan told me and his son-in-law, in front of our wives, “Go and manage your paper, fix this circulation.” He sent us back to Istanbul, as if kicking us off from the hotel where we were vacationing for bayram.
Now, I look back and think he was right. In the past 12 years, there were many people preaching to the mainstream media on ethics. Ethics is a subjective value, but there are objective norms of successful journalism.
You must not make your paper lose money, you should be able to sell it and you should prepare good content. If you can achieve this performance, it does not matter whether you are pro-government or anti-government.
“Journalism for a cause” does not bring happiness to the journalist; it brings unhappiness. A lesson for the bosses is that money invested in this profession while disregarding professional rules can make them bankrupt.
Doğan does not say for nothing that Bâb-ı âli, the traditional press district in Istanbul, is a cemetery of media bosses. I would add that Bâb-ı âli is also the garbage of hit men.
If some media bosses on the pro-government wing have only started realizing this now, then our colleagues who have not experienced success for 12 years should also learn it.