All-in journalism package

Let me explain something about my work. Some people who react to my websites, both here and in the Dutch version, don’t understand that there are actually opinions published here. ‘You are a journalist aren’t you, so you have to be neutral and objective!’ The thing is that,  as a journalist, you can’t do more than try to be objective and you will never succeed, and second, one of the tasks of journalism is to analyse the news, put it in perspective and comment on it.

Objectivity doesn’t exist. In a simple short news article, you can seemingly stick to the facts easily. Still, even when you write about the smallest news item, there are choices to be made: what to put in the article and what not, which details are relevant, which words to chose, which sources to check. The art of the profession is to choose which things are relevant to mention and how to give the best description of what’s happening. And always limited by the space you have.

There’s another reason why even a news article can’t be objective: for a start the choice of what to write about and about what not to write about, is subjective. What’s relevant news, for whom? In background stories this is even more so: which big stories are worth telling, which are not? That’s based on what magazines want to buy, but also on what you find interesting and important subjects as a journalist, and of course also by the news and current affairs. I love writing about politics, human rights, minorities and women’s lives and less about, for example, economy, tourism and showbiz. Totally subjective, even more so as I chose Turkey to work in, because I think these themes are important issues here. For Turks that’s sometimes hard to get: their definition of the term ‘minorities’ for example is already different than mine, let alone the consideration of how much importance the subject needs to be given. A similar story can be told about human rights subjects, and for women’s issues too.

So what am I going to do? Quit writing about these subjects because every choice I make in it is so subjective? No, of course not. I came to Turkey because I want to let people know what’s going on here, I want to share the views of different groups and individuals with my readers, I want my readers to get to know Turkey better. All based on information that I bring to you as honestly and professionally as possible. While doing that, I get to know the country better and better – and of course, all this knowledge raises new questions again, only complicating matters ;-). I develop my opinions, and feel so lucky I’m a journalist in an era in which it is so easy to create my own platform. I publish my stories on old fashioned paper and here, but anything I can’t sell, all the opinions I cannot publish in paper form, I can express in the blog posts on this website.

You could see this site as an all-in journalism package: news in short articles, backgrounds in long reports, opinions and observations in blog posts, and if you follow me on twitter, you also get news flashes, tweets about some private things, and snap shot pictures about the news and life in Turkey. It all reflects on how I practice journalism in Turkey. Developing and expressing opinions is not a lack of professionalism, it’s an inevitable and inalienable part of it.

6 replies
  1. Cagil
    Cagil says:

    Very interesting post. I’m glad that this was brought up by a foreign journalist working in Turkey, a country where the practice of journalism remains pretty vague in terms of definition.
    While the Turkish public opinion is getting shaped by the Turkish Press standards/rules I believe it’s necessary to follow foreign journalists, and capture their colour/view.
    However, the difference in terms of practice also makes me wonder whether Journalistic norms are universal or culturally relative. Is there a common universal language in journalism? Or, do we intend to fit all into our own baskets?

  2. Theoldtturk
    Theoldtturk says:

    Nobody is objective, but readers have right to expect unbiased pieces from “their favourite correspondent”.

    Let me illustrate a few instances which I found biased in your case. First, there was a chemical weapon usage claim by pro pkk sources. You immediately used this at your twitter account. After a while Turkish forensic authorities didn’t find any chemical weapon traces. As far as I know you didn’t mention this any of your news platform. Looking pkk doesn’t bring this up again, it’s obvious this is a wrong claim and you have to be careful with using those sources again.

    Second, using your pro pkk sources you claimed there was heavy fighting somewhere in east turkey. “our favourite journalist” used this again at twitter. After a while she hedged though after realizing this was just a rumour by pro pkk gang.

    I wouldn’t say this is objective or not, but one thing is clear to me that you are becoming one of us. That means you are taking one of the multiple sides of the Turkish society. And you see the other sides as enemy. And that makes you biased if not subjective.

  3. Fréderike Geerdink
    Fréderike Geerdink says:

    Theoldtturk, I definitely don’t see anybody as the enemy, that’s really total crap. That’s not how I am, I don’t think in terms of ‘enemy’. On twitter, I retweet when I’m not sure about news in stead of stating it myself, or I add who says or claims something. I try to tweet as careful as possible, but twitter is fast and it is impossible to check check doublecheck everything you tweet or retweet, like you do when it’s an article or background story. That’s why i often add ‘apparently’, ‘it seems’, or ‘tweets this and that person’, etc. I don’t always catch up on everything, true, but hey, would you please realize I am only just one person?

  4. miriam
    miriam says:

    Journalism is indeed something that is different in every country, in every culture. I’ll give a few examples.

    To start nearby, the Dutch do not have a culture of reverence and respect for the elderly like most indigenous peoples do. That makes my view on events in South Africa (where I live) entirely different from a local journo’s, even if that person might have a professional background that is similar to mine.

    In the culture of the USA it is very important that politicians lead a squeaky clean personal life. The French could not care less, they are just interested in good statesmanship. Mitterrand’s extramarital daughter was interesting, but only on a personal gossip level and her existence did not influence his political position.

    Why was that so different with Dominique Strauss-Kahn? Because he led an *international* powerhouse and he knew he was better off leaving straight away, cutting clean, than to taint his political chances for the future. The sexual assault in itself was not huge news in France, but the consequences were.

    International reporting is influenced by many things. But there is a reason that most news houses rotate their correspondents every few years: because once they start blending in, they lose the viewpoint that corresponds with their audience’s.

  5. miriam
    miriam says:

    For Theoldtturk I would like to add that even in a deeply divided society, people from outside may be able to keep an independent view. You may confuse this with someone’s generic political stand and cultural background – where I know Frederike’s to never having been rightwing nor narrowminded and very interested in all kinds of people, not just the people in power.
    It’s an interesting exercise to separate disagreeing with someone from labelling the other person being totally biased.


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  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Frederike Geerdink, Cagil M. Kasapoglu. Cagil M. Kasapoglu said: Interesting post on Journalism by @fgeerdink: I wonder: Are journalistic norms universal or culturally relative? […]

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