An existential challenge

An existential challenge

These days most of us are “willingly” confined to our homes. The first few days of self-isolation might not be difficult at all. But after a while it becomes very difficult to accept that “cut off” psychology.

Being alone even at a semi-productive age must be very difficult I would have said before this crisis. Now I know that it is indeed very difficult to look at the world from a window or a balcony and rather sad to see empty streets. Worse, how it happened I just could not comprehend but apparently Turkey was rather rich regarding “experts” on all kinds of pandemics and these experts keep on talking on all TV channels, including the so-called magazine hours and have occupied pages of newspapers.

It is perhaps high time for everyone to understand. As we are self-locked in our houses, we are all very active these days on social media. A friend shared a cartoon. It was indeed composed of three sections. The one at the top was showing a nice villa and under it was written: “We may stay in our houses.” The second one was depicting a hospital room. Its subtitle was: “We may as well prefer to stay in a hospital.” And the third was a family room wall with some picture frames. The subtitle was: “Or we may opt to remain in a frame on the wall.”

That is indeed the summary of the challenge we are facing today. I have been bound to my home since March 13 evening. Most of us are in the same position. Some “cleverer” people might believe the coronavirus will not affect them and ignore all the warnings, continue jogging, going out to park, shopping and other routine everyday activities. I wouldn’t mind if such people become prey to the virus but we are all on the same boat and if the spread of this contagious viral menace could not be controlled and eliminated altogether the threat might become an existential one at least for a sizeable section of our societies.

It is rather sad to see people at this age still believing that angels are protecting the places of religion and they would not be infected while praying. It is sad to see doctors trying to reinforce quarantine rules are being attacked with döner knives. How could someone who claims to be an intellectual try to escape from his self-quarantine?

China has managed to take under control the viral threat. Others could not so far. Many countries have declared curfew or emergency rule. The situation of Italy, Spain, Britain and many other friendly nations demonstrate in all great pain the absolute need to understand that the threat is existential and we have so far only three options: Staying at home, a hospital bed or in a frame on the wall.

Media in serious difficulty

Whatever is left from the Turkish media is struggling to cope with the new reality. Circulations have gone down drastically. Most newspapers have either moved to shifts while many of them decided to keep only layout people at the office, limited number of correspondents going out and asked all the personnel to work from home. Security of the correspondents going out is a serious problem. Yet, how can a newspaper or TV survive without having people in the field gathering news for them? Already there is a pool system that seriously hurts the integrity of newspapers if all reporters are called off the streets would not newspapers turn into PR bulletins.

In these difficult times public officials must provide more and accurate information to the news people and perhaps should be willing to become electronically accessible more than ever. Despite all his minor failures the health minister must set an example for other executives and bureaucrats with his effort to constantly update the media on developments.

Another good example was undertaken by the Public Advertisement Agency (BİK). BİK took a revolutionary decision this week to remove from eligibility condition the “limited amount of circulation” clause. Thus, local media, irrespective of how many copies they publish and sell, will be eligible to get official adds. Furthermore, the need to publish at least six times a week, another condition to become eligible to receive official adds, was maintained but local papers were given the opportunity of merging their publications. Thus, now in every province local papers might establish some sort of a rotation on the condition that at least each paper is published minimum two days a week.

These and similar undertakings of the BİK are rather positive. With people hardly going to work and most people working from home, these decisions might be considered as life savers for the local media.