JOURNALISM IN TURKEY:
PRACTICES, CHALLENGES, OPPORTUNITIES
In the age of fake news and post-truth, practices of journalism in Turkey both contain significantly striking examples of how media professionals overcome the barriers and also give some clues about the changing nature of journalism. The book examines the deep crisis mainstream media experience in Turkey. New-born media institutions, alternatives, their start-up strategies, and transformation of journalism field are scrutinized by qualitative and quantitative methods. The book aims to present a current picture of journalism in Turkey by underlining both historical continuities and breaks from the tradition.
Table Of Contents
- About the editors
- About the book
- This eBook can be cited
- An Ever-Lasting Status Quo: Journalistic Field in Turkey (Gökçen Başaran-İnce)
- Construction of Gender Codes in Conservative Media: Conserved Gender (Semiray Yücebaş)
- The Working Practices of the Glocal Foreign Turkish Media Institutions in the Context of Their Advantages and Disadvantages (Bilge Narin & Sevda Ünal)
- Fact-Checking Services in Turkey: The Case of Teyit.org and Doğrulukpayi.com (Nalan Ova & Seyfi KILIÇ)
- Between Craftsmanship and Journalism: Survival of Local Press in Turkey’s Province (Mesut Yücebaş)
- Visualization of the Revolution: Symbols, Typography and Page Design in the Early Republican Journalism (Devrim İnce)
- Turkey and the West in the Case of +90 YouTube Channel (Filiz Yıldız & Onur Dursun)
- Confrontation of Media Professionals with New Production Styles: Opportunity or Threat? (Recep Ünal & Ahmet Taylan)
- From Citizen Journalism to Alternative Media: The Case of 140journos (Ayçin Gelir-Atabey & Erhan Atabey)
- New Inequality in the Field of Journalism: Technical Capital (Şerife Öztürk)
- Generations, Genders and Priorities: On Digital and Printed Newspapers (Özgehan Özkan)
This book was prepared at the time of the Covid-19 pandemic when daily life has slowed more than ever, but history accelerated at an unprecedented level. Declaring the “end of things” in social sciences has been extremely common and a large grave had already been dug for journalism. Journalists and newspapers are on a decline in numbers, yet those talking about journalism increase day by day. It is as if journalism has turned into a cursed job which everyone knows how to do but nobody wants to do.
The mainstream media all over the world – a little more in Turkey – seems to be losing power. As highlighted, a majority of journalism studies focus on questions such as the current death of the mainstream media or whether it has already died. In fact, scholars are trying to describe how this new era is or will be, but we do not have consistent theoretical explanations other than great labels such as new media, new journalism, etc. Even the newest concepts are getting old quickly. All that is solid from news and audiences to class and circulation melt into the air.
According to various scholars, journalism is one of the integral parts of technological developments. 20 years ago, Pavlik stated that technological change would affect journalist in four dimensions as follows: the way journalists do their job and the nature of news content; the structure and organization of the newsroom and the news industry; and the nature of the relationships between and among news organizations (Pavlik, 2000: 229). The new era brings along its new forms of production in journalism. Three papers in this book have examined the changing rules of the game in journalism. Ünal and Taylan have examined how newsrooms and journalists adapt to new production practices by conducting in-depth interviews with journalists. Gelir-Atabey and Atabey have written a monographic paper on the case of 140journos starting from the concept of citizen journalism. In this study, limits of citizen journalism and alternative media have been questioned through in-depth interviews. Özkan has investigated other aspects of the story by analyzing the transformation of readers’ habits on media consumption.
Speaking of the new era, it has not been far since it was asserted that thanks to the internet technologies, the public will completely be free and have equal access to information. Of course, there were those who advocate that everything will not go well as it is said. Especially after the last general elections in the United States and the United Kingdom, fake news, mostly originating from social media, ←7 | 8→but even found in mainstream media, has led to the popularization of concepts such as post-truth and fake news which have been discussed among scholars for some time. Along with these discussions, fact-checking services have been introduced to the life of average digital literate. Two cases of the fact-checking services in Turkey, have been viewed by Ova and Kılıç. As producing news by the double-check mechanism disappears slowly even in the Anglo-Saxon media, their study gives clues about this transformation which brings about new content and checking mechanism.
The investments made by foreign media organizations in the journalism field in Turkey are increasing. By looking at the number of audiences watching the content prepared by these organizations, it is understood that the people of the country did not leave this interest unanswered. Some consider that this interest stems from a real political perspective. This view is based on the assumption that foreign countries wield this media tool to protect their interests in Turkey. Others argue that the space emptied by the “domestic and national” mainstream media has been filled by foreign enterprises which broadcast in Turkish. In this book, the activities of foreign media organizations which broadcast in Turkish have been addressed by two articles. Narin and Ünal have examined the working practices of foreign media organizations within the concept of glocalism. The authors have interviewed the journalists working for these organizations and investigated the advantages and disadvantages of working for a foreign media company’s Turkish branch. All the foreign policy debate in Turkey, even domestic ones too, generate a metaphor called “axis shift”. This is based on the assumption that Turkey is moving from the Western path to the Russia-China axis. This might be the case, yet it is impossible to answer such a vital question properly within the confines of this book which is mainly about journalism in Turkey. Instead, foreign media interest in Turkey has been analyzed from a real-politic perspective by Yıldız and Dursun.
Human aspects of journalism are generally examined with cultural or sociological perspective. The sociology of Bourdieu gives wide range of possibilities to understand the fundamental elements of the relationship between individual journalist, system and the journalistic field. Başaran-İnce, has dissected the features of the journalistic field in Turkey with a qualitative study on journalism students. The findings of her study make us suspicious about the myth of “youngster idealism” and track the structural ruptures and continuities of the journalistic field in Turkey. The study of Öztürk, drawing on Bourdieu’s concept of “the capital”, has scrutinized the need for technical knowledge within the changing journalism ecosystem by interviewing the new generation journalists. Öztürk has designed her research based on a new concept called “technical capital” that ←8 | 9→was inspired from Bourdieu’s sociology. Mesut Yücebaş questions whether local journalism is a form of craftsmanship. His article which is comprised of in-depth interviews with journalists working in Gaziantep province – the border city between Turkey and Syria – also gives a historical and actual perspective about the transformation of local journalism.
Studies on media texts constitute a very important part of the communication research. Taking into account that super-structural issues are the main elements of the political polarization, media texts are still treated as important research materials in Turkey as well. Moreover, the government proves on several occasions that it takes the “word” extremely serious. One of the two studies in this book on media texts examines the revolution era in Turkey, 1923–1940, through early Republican press. İnce’s study which is comprised of a semiological analysis questions the relationship between visual preferences in journalism and the establishment of the revolution. In Semiray Yücebaş’s article, right wing newspapers’ negative reactions to the rising women’s movement are examined with a qualitative study.
Within the confines of this book, we tried to cover actual discussions on journalism practises in Turkey and provide an actual panorama. Convergence of the findings of these researches with world-wide efforts of theorizing journalism would best serve the aims of this book.
Pavlik, J. (2000). The Impact of Technology on Journalism. Journalism Studies, 1(2), 229–237.
An Ever-Lasting Status Quo: Journalistic Field in Turkey
Unlike in Western modernization, the newspaper did not emerge as an outcome of material production processes and class relations in Turkey. It was introduced to the society by the State, as part of an official modernization project. Its faith was determined by the rise and fall of the elites who transformed the people and the state with contentious projects. During the preliminary modernization efforts of the Republic, it was authorized as the “display of modernization” by performing “reform journalism”. With the advent of the multi-party system, a partial autonomy arrived in tandem with the development of capitalism which did not last long due to the rising authoritarianism of the new actors of politics. The partial autonomy has also been interrupted constantly by military interventions. Thus, throughout its history, the faith of newspapers has been in the hands of power groups that seized the State.
The current situation of journalism in Turkey tracks its historical heritage and all the contemporary crisis of journalism that is embodied as the monopolization of the journalistic field within neo-liberal and autocratic policies which creates a cultural production field in which voices of others are marginalized and journalism loses its autonomy. This journalistic crisis is neither inherent to Turkey, nor it is new. Journalistic field around the world is downsizing (Carson, 2014), journalists are losing their discursive authority (Lanosga and Houston, 2017) and even in the USA, journalism is charged with being the “enemy of the people”. From this perspective, journalism presents a dire and dark future to its professionals (Houston, 2010; Lanosga ve Houston, 2017), yet it also struggles hard to survive all around the world.
The aim of this article is to dissect the features of the journalistic field in Turkey with a qualitative research on journalism students. It also aims to track structural continuities and ruptures with a glance at the historical formation of the journalistic field in Turkey and re-read research findings within this context. The theoretical background of the study is comprised of Bourdieu’s sociology, especially his concepts of “field”, “habitus”, “capital” and “strategy”. Thus, the first part of the article will focus on the fundamentals of Bourdieu’s sociology. The ←11 | 12→second part will discuss the journalistic field as a sub-field of cultural production and the characteristics of the journalistic field in Turkey. The third part will analyze the findings of the research within the theoretical background of the study.
The Fundamentals of Pierre Bourdieu’s Thought
In the academic circles, Pierre Bourdieu is ratified as one of the distinctive sociologists of the 21st century. Comprehending his neology requires understanding his objections, rebuttals and acceptance of the classical sociology. Bourdieu’s main feature is his ability to stretch his position and thoughts, to enlarge the classical concepts of sociology like “capital” or “habitus”, to pick the best apples from the basket of the sociological thought and his will to fuse so-called contradicting ideas of the sociologists predating him. He attempts to bridge extreme objectivist/structuralist and subjectivist/phenomological/constructivist positions under “structural-constructivist approach” (Bourdieu, 1989: 20) in which he aims to rephrase the roles of agents and structures. Meanwhile he attempts to overcome the classical dualisms of the Western thought like “agent-structure/mind-body and/or qualitative-quantitative data” which impede a broader vision of the social reality. His research techniques also aim to corraborate etnographic observation and theoretical assumptions by statistical analysis. Bourdieu’s efforts to create harmony between so-called “contradicting” ideas or positions can also be observed in his fusing Marx, Durkheim and Weber (Bourdieu, 1985) to stress the importance of the social, the status and the power. Construing the power within economic, social and symbolic realms enable to enlarge economic capital to social, cultural and symbolic forms.
Bourdieu’s attempts to balance objectivist/structuralist and subjectivist/constructivist views are embodied in his concept of “field” as “a network, or a configuration of objective relations between positions. These positions are objectively defined, in their existence and in the determinations, they impose upon their occupants […] as well as by their objective relation to other positions” (Bourdieu and Wacquant, 1992: 97). Benson states that
Bourdieu sees society as differentiated into a number of semi-autonomous fields (e.g., fields of politics, economics, religion, cultural production, etc.) governed by their own “rules of the game” (doxa) and offering their own particular economy of exchange and reward, yet whose basic oppositions and general structures parallel each other. These binary oppositions are reflections and refractions of the overall class division in society, between the dominant and dominated classes, but also the split within the dominant class, between dominant economic and political power on the one hand and dominated cultural power on the other (…) Fields, then, can be differentiated both according ←12 | 13→to the kinds of specific capital that are valued therein and by their degree of relative autonomy from each other and in particular from the dominant economic and political fields (1999: 464).
Fields are comprised of active agents endowed with special forms of capital which accrue from their memberships to groups. That fields are dynamic with ongoing power-hegemony relations, stem from various forms of capitals from which agents garner power. Forms of economic, cultural, social and symbolic capital refer to tangible or intangible assets agents possess within the fields. Economic capital refers to income and other financial resources and assets (Bourdieu, 1986). Social capital is the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition (Bourdieu & Wacquant, 1992: 119). Suminar states that “Social capital exists as a set of lasting social relations, networks and contacts. Investing in social capital acts as a kind of strategy which further serves as a mechanism to exchange other capitals. In other words, for group members social capital facilitates ownership of collective capital. Social capital is manifested in relations and networks which are useful resources in determining and reproduction of social positions” (2013: 203). Cultural capital refers to educational or family background from which agents within fields gain cultural habits, features or dispositions that deploy them in certain positions within fields that underline “distinction” (see Bourdieu, 1985).
Bourdieu frames symbolic capital as “…nothing other than capital, in whatever form, when perceived by an agent endowed with categories of perception arising from the internalization (embodiment) of the structure of its distribution, i.e. when it is known and recognized as self-evident” (1986: 204). Symbolic capital is commonly called prestige, reputation, renown, etc., which is the form in which different forms of capital are perceived and recognized as legitimate (Bourdieu, 1985: 724). Thus, symbolic capital is the overall power agents possess related to the three fundamental forms of capital: economic, cultural and social. For instance, a type of accent (as part of cultural capital) in a country may endow symbolic power or prestige to specific agents in the entrance to some professions, like “RP” (received pronounciation) in Britain, or “Turkish of Istanbul” (İstanbul Türkçesi) in Turkey. Cultural capital may converge with the symbolic one to underscore one’s class superiorities through “distinction”. The function of various forms of capital as “power” in the fields can be summarized as follows:
A field is a structured social space, a field of forces, a force field. It contains people who dominate and others who are dominated. Constant, permanent relationships of ←13 | 14→inequality operate inside this space, which at the same time becomes a space in which the various actors struggle for the transformation or preservation of the field. All the individuals in this universe bring to the competition all the (relative) power at their disposal. It is this power that defines their position in the field and, as a result, their strategies (Bourdieu, 1998: 40).
Forms of capital fuse with one’s habitus to exert power in hegemony relations in the field. Habitus is the core concept in Bourdieu’s theory of practise along with fields. Agents perform in the fields in accordance with their habitus and the forms of capital they possess. Habitus is both a structured and structuring concept (Bourdieu, 1994, cited by Maton, 2008: 51) in terms of its constant and changeable nature at once. It is structured, because agents are born into fields in which fundamental rules of the games (doxa) are set before them. Their identities are shaped by dispositions which they sometimes carry all their lives. Habitus is also structuring because it changes as the agents’ positions and forms of capital in the field change:
Habitus constitutes — a set of durable, transposable dispositions — which regulate mental activity to the point where individuals are often unconsciously aware of their influence. In similar point of view, habitus concept is an avenue of explaining how social and cultural messages shape individual’s thoughts and actions. The habitus, basically, is thus not wholly structured, though it still remains strongly influenced by historical, social and cultural contexts (Bourdieu, 1977: 2).
The crux of Bourdieu’s theory of practise is its ability to bridge structuralist (objectivist) and existentialist (subjectivist) approaches which position “the agent” on two opposite sides. Structuralists propound that structural factors such as rules and/or taboos (as Levi-Strauss referred to) shape attitudes and behaviors and leave almost no room for personal choices. Existentialists on the other hand stress free will and personal choices in the construction of social reality and meaning (see Grenfell, 2008: 40–44). For Bourdieu, both and neither of these ideas are valid. He contends that the agents perform in personal and contextual conditions through strategies and habitus in the fields within the confines of their capitals which endow relatively active positions to them. Yet this position does not ignore the fact that fields have their pre-existing rules (doxa) and shape habitus in order to reproduce themselves.
Another important “structural constructivist” term coined by Bourdieu is the “strategy”. Agents defy constraints and limits of the fields and counter other agents by the strategies they deploy, and the field is rendered dynamic and changeable, unlike the “structures”. He refers to three main strategies in the fields: conservation, succession and subversion:←14 | 15→
Conservation strategies tend to be pursued by those who hold dominant positions and enjoy seniority in the field. Strategies of succession are attempts to gain access to dominant positions in a field and are generally pursued by new entrants. Finally strategies of subversion are pursued by those who expect little gain from the dominant groups (Swartz, 1997: 125).
New entrants to the field (the heretics) tend to oppose the rules and establish their own understanding of doxa while the elderly (the orthodox) wield their experiences in order to legitimize and conform to the rules, thus preserve the field. Forms of capital agents possess determine the potential strategies they employ. Strategies are thus employed by individuals to distinguish themselves from other groups and place them in advantageous position via the effective utilization of capital (Rudd, 2003, cited by Suminar, 2013: 204). Strategies enable agents to perform and make choices according to the habitus and the capital they possess in the fields.
Journalism as a Sub-Field of Cultural Production
In Bourdieu’s sociology, a partial degree of autonomy from other fields and an established doxa (rules of the game) are basic requirements of field formation. Referring from this assumption, cultural production which consists of the production within mathematics, literature, law, science, etc. (Bourdieu, 1998: 53) have their unique doxa and are confined to specific limitations which differentiate them from other fields. Bourdieu also refers to the field of economy as a constitutive force along with the field of power within field theory.
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- Publication date
- 2020 (July)
- Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2020. 304 pp., 15 fig. b/w, 5 tables.