How are the working conditions for the young members of the media corps? We talked with Ece, Gökhan, Şükran and Fırat, who work in national or independent media outlets, about their experiences and feelings regarding their work in the media: “A reporter has no off-time, for the news are simply everywhere, at every moment of life.”
Ece Belen, 32, is a graduate of visual communication design, and works as an anchor at Star TV.
Ece began her career in 2008 as an intern, and worked in various parts of the operations, serving as a correspondent, writer and editor of news pieces, investigating issues on the agenda, and working in live broadcasts, ending up as a newscaster at prime time. Even though she did not receive a formal journalism education, she tries to improve herself by attending anchor trainings and working with experienced people in every stage of the production of news.
She has the following to say in her early days in the industry: “Once I took up the internship position, I realized what kind of a sacrifice this job demanded. A reporter has no off-time, for the news are simply everywhere, at every moment of life. I reached my current position through patience, hard work, and persistence. Actually my motivation was hidden inside me. You know, you get closer to your dreams through hard work.”
Ece tells how anyone that loves his or her job gets to enjoy a changing perspective in time, despite all the difficulties involved in this line of business. She also adds that she worked with social security registration since day one, and that she felt comfortable in her work as she was confident in her abilities as well as the institution she is a part of.
Underlining her awareness of the importance of social media in the age of fast-changing technology and digitalization, she adds that she makes optimal use of that strength in her line of work.
“One should not only act quickly in producing news, but also confirm the accuracy of any piece of information.”
Gökhan is a 29-years old Journalism graduate. He works as a correspondent for a national newspaper. (We have to keep his surname and the organization he works in confidential, as per his request.)
Having served as an intern at BirGün and Cumhuriyet dailies during his days at the university, Gökhan, at the moment, works as a correspondent for a national newspaper. He complains about the level of education he expected to receive in his early days at the school of journalism, but was unable to get. He notes the negative effects of the crowded classrooms of the faculty of communications, and how ineffective courses taught to an audience of 100 students were. Gökhan adds that the lack of classes to provide some field-experience represents one of the shortcomings any journalism graduate would feel upon venturing into an actual career in this occupation. “Journalism education still entails some discussion of truly ancient printing techniques. But we don’t see people reading paper based newspapers in the street any more. Nowadays, they all have their phones and read the news on those phones.”
Gökhan says that, despite a few disappointments he suffered upon venturing into this career, he loves his job, and therefore continues his career:
“Upon venturing into this sector, I realized that I could not get into a paying job without doing some free service. To be honest, that was a bit discouraging. However, I proceeded as I loved this profession.It is very difficult to get a job in this field. Whenever you apply for a job, you don’t get hired immediately. The employers think ‘let’s see what this guy can do first’. And that trial period can extend up to 2 years in some cases. Is is sensible to have a 2-year trial period just to see the potential of a person?”
“The news you bring in get shaped with your employer in mind. At times, you need to apply some self-censorship. And that is not the best thing to do. You force yourself into the template of your employer.”
He also talks about the kinds of change brought about by the development of the new media and life in this quick-paced age. He mentions how the printed newspapers are contracting rapidly, and how many newspapers close their doors, and notes his opinion that, in time, newspapers will wither away. He believes that the print-media folk is on track for withering away unless they can keep up with the digital trend. For, any news you can find on a newspaper had, by then, been published already on digital media. He adds that the print-media is investing in digital, but falls short of training their staff about the peculiarities of this new medium. On the other hand, in his perspective, the race to publish news quickly, as a trend prevalent in digital media, makes them prone to manipulations. “One should not only act quickly in producing news, but also confirm the accuracy of any piece of information. Otherwise, you get news based on misinformation.”
“If you are employed somewhere other than mainstream media, you have to work long hours for only meager wages. More often than not, you would not get social security.”
Fırat Yeşilçınar is a 30 years old economics graduate. He works as an editor and correspondent on Medya Blok news site.
Even though he hated the profession in the beginning, Fırat nevertheless took his first steps in the form of documentary shoots, writing columns, and reporting news about rights. His venture into the profession was mostly influenced by the stories of journalists reporting about human rights. Even though he reports other news as well, most of his efforts are focused on human rights issues. He notes that working on human rights is a difficult task, that the job puts one on a collusion course with the state, and that the journalists working in this field face the threat of being taken into custody, or being killed. He adds that some of his news brought him awards, and that one should just take the risk if he wants to be worthy of the awards issued in the name of Uğur Mumcu, Metin Göktepe, or Musa Anter.
Noting the financial difficulties associated with working in an opposition media organization, Fırat had the following to say:
“The majority of the media organizations which stand in opposition and which raise their voice against the government, cannot earn much. Such newspapers don’t sell much. Such media agencies don’t receive enough clicks. In other words, you have to work without social security or insurance. That modus operandi is not enforced by the organizations themselves. They are forced to work that way. To engage in true journalism, you have to work somehow, even if you face hardships. If you are employed somewhere other than mainstream media, you have to work long hours for only meager wages. More often than not, you would not get social security. There are no official work hours for journalists. It is an industry that is required to work 7/24 in Turkey.”
At the moment Fırat is employed with social security, and is a member of a union for media laborers.
Fırat feels comfortable and free from pressure as he simply reports news. He is also quick to note that he never resorted to self-censorship, while some news he reported became the object of censorship by the authorities. To him, reporting news is a didactic experience, based mostly on concrete documents, through a process where he got acquainted with many concepts he previously been foreign to.
Medya Blok web site’s journey continues for 1.5 years now, with a small team covering a multitude of interests. “We are not unrivaled” is the slogan of the site they set up at a time where many media agencies had been shutting their doors for good. Fırat says that one of the goals for setting up the site was to create some employment opportunities for a group of friends who had been employed at news organizations closed due to the state of emergency.
Fırat notes how the readers were impatient to read the news they printed on the next day’s issue, before the advent of internet news media, and adds that is simply not an option today, and news sites represent the faster option in terms of keeping up with the digital technology.
“Staying online at all times, keeping up with the development, is truly tiring. I had to work 9 or 10 hours overtime on some days.”
Şükran Şençekiçer is a 26 years old graduate of Boğaziçi University, Department of Political Science. She works at Medyascope, as a reporter and programmer.
Şükran began her work at Medyascope in her last year of studies at the university. To her, Medyascope is a school of journalism, making her feel free to chase the news of her desire, while working with experienced journalists.
“Instead of getting lost in the crowds of mainstream media, here you have free reign over any issue you desire. You are free to write any news you like, to get in front of a camera if you like, have an interview with any person you choose. And you get to have direct contact with very experienced journalists who would normally be out of reach for you. Working side-by-side with them is a very educational experience.
Şükran also worked in social media management of 140journos. She says that in busy times, the long work hours and the need to deliver the breaking news as soon as possible makes the work a stressful one. “Staying online at all times, keeping up with the development, is truly tiring. I had to work 9 or 10 hours overtime on some days.”
On the other hand, Şükran is happy with the lack of hierarchy, the flexible work hours, and the conditions of work at Medyascope. Yet, she says that a number of technical improvements could make the place even better, given the right content is available already. She nonetheless is aware of the financial strains such changes could impose.
* This article by Nebiye Arı, a New Media student of Istanbul’s Nişantaşı University, was awarded first prize in the competition organized for communications students by the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ).