The Turkish Elections Media Coverage Cheat Sheet

All male pontificating panels, copy paste templates and graphics, no sign of swing votes or interviews with candidates, citizen or other stories. It can only mean one thing: Turkish election coverage.

All male election panels at CNN Turk and NTV

All male election panels at CNN Turk and NTV

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I’m part of the demographic which gets my news primarily from social media (with the FT Weekend, and Monocle magazine notable exceptions). However, with the failure of the Turkey’s ruling AK (justice and development) party to form a coalition government after the June parliamentary elections, a second round was held on November 1st. However when you watch Turkish mainstream media election coverage, ie. TV, there are a few things missing – this by the way has nothing to do with any kind of Turkish media clampdown. It simply appears to be in the lowest common denominator type of coverage that networks seem to go for.

TRT World is the new kid on the block – they’re the new English language channel from the state broadcast although checking in for a few hours, their livestream appears to be down. 

I was expecting some livestream coverage on Al Jazeera Turk – now an entirely online operation. The timing is perfect for them to be doing some live coverage (eg. on YouTube or on site) particularly as none of the other main broadcasters seem to be carrying a live feed on the social platforms where you’ll find Turkey’s largely under 30 population. (Nothing live on Facebook for any of these broadcasters either)

So, while dipping in and out of various Turkish media outlets, here’s a quick cheat sheet for the things missing that should be included in any future election to do list.

Women: are there really no female Turkish political commentators available? (Hint, I’m available and have a list of other Turkish female politicos who would be happy to contribute too). Isn’t media supposed to represent the populace (as are elected officials?) particularly when the population is half female and half male? 

Include the swing: While we see the aggregate results (the percentage of the vote and number of seats won in parliament), we don’t see the swings. All we hear is speculation on why there are swings. Lets see where the votes and see have been gained and lost then get into the analysis, preferably with an expert from the region. Although not including the swing, Al Jazeera Turk did show the June results alongside.

Al Jazeera Turk showing the June 7 results below the November 1st election returns. Not a swing, but its a start.

Interviews. No interviews with candidates, whether victorious or not, no pieces pieces on voting day.

All we see are victory speeches. Why is there any coverage of the consolation speeches? No exit interviews or coverage of the many grass root efforts such as Oy ve Otesi – an organisation mobilising election monitoring and encouraging people to vote

Other election stories of interest. If you skim social media however there are many many stories of people voting in difficult circumstances – for instance elderly, people in ill health taking an ambulance to go vote. There are no pre prepared pieces of election expectations, voter turn out, voting issues etc. Again, social media is faster on this demonstrating that their is no shortage of election related content.

Broadcast live on social platforms With all the fuss made about the blocking of social platforms, why wouldn’t broadcasters use this to their advantage. There were no livestreams on Facebook or YouTube for any of the major broadcasters. This isn’t that surprising as if you have a look at campaigning and media in Turkey, it still is out of touch in the respect that it is still seen as a cute add on rather than as a faster growing media outlet. Not convinced? Check out this essay Damian Radcliffe and I put together for the Reuters Insitute on how Turkey uses social media

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On the protests in Turkey

Whats happening in Turkey?

In the first interview with Lorna Dunkley I talk about the role of social media and media coverage on the protests in Turkey.

In the second with Adam Boulton on “Boulton & Co” a more general short discussion on whats happening in Turkey.  At the time of interview, the delegation members to meet with the Prime Minister hadn’t been identified, and numbers were floated 11-17.  Things have progressed since then. Also, not everyone fasts in during Ramadan. I don’t have stats on that… yet. If interested in more, please leave a comment.

For more, see previous posts:

Not a Turkish Spring (on the LSE Polis blog)

Turkish Summer: Protests, politics and media (on the LSE Polis blog)

All quiet on the Rumelian and Anatolian fronts? 

Istanbul on Saturday night: what was done, what is to come 

Broadcast footage from Sky, used with permission from Reuters and cannot be used for commercial purposes

‘Social media needs to put the person at the heart of the story’

This article originally appeared on Journalism.co.uk and is re-posted from there. 

Image by jared on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak at the annual Polis journalism conference at the London School of Economics.

I was asked to share on my experiences while at the social media team at Al Jazeera. When you hear “social media,” “journalism” or “media,” usually a few things continue to dominate the conservation:

  • Was (the Egypt Revolution) a social media revolution? (Yes this is still debated two years after the fact.)
  • What tools do and should journalists use?
  • How do you verify social media sources?
  • How do media companies regulate staff use of Twitter and other platforms?

Remarkably little is said of how social media is actually put into practice, besides analytics.

As well as dealing with the above questions, the social media team at Al Jazeera engages their viewing (and non viewing) audience with campaigns around various media issues. Non-viewing here refers to an audience that does not necessarily watch Al Jazeera due to broadcast limitations.

With the theme of the conference being ‘Trust in Journalism’ I decided to use three cases: ‘Uganda Speaks,’ ‘Libya Speaks,’ and ‘Gaza Voices’ to show how trust plays a role in how audiences contribute and that social media is premised by offline communities, and simply, by being social.

Uganda Speaks

In response to the Kony2012 campaign by the group Invisible Children to bring Joseph Kony and the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) to justice, the team decided to see what Ugandans in the north of the country – an area where the LRA and Kony had operated – thought of the campaign.

An easy mistake to make in social and mobile media is the assumption of equal access – that if you have a smartphone, everyone else does and is as connected. But in Northern Uganda where this is not a reality, how do you obtain local voices when internet or 3G connectivity is not an option?

Here the team contacted local radio stations to broadcast a call for opinions by phone or sent via SMS to local numbers, as well as a Qatari number for Ugandan expats to also voice their opinions. These responses were verified, filtered (for abuse, duplication and so on) and plotted on a simple Ushahidi map. The results appeared on the Al Jazeera web page.

Libya Speaks

The second instance was #LibyaSpeaks. Following the topple of Muammar Gaddafi and his regime, Libyan elections were held with great anticipation.

For this instance, FlipCams were distributed to willing participants in Benghazi, Misrata and Tripoli. Participants were identified as being active online, as bloggers, activists and the like, and cameras were distributed via Al Jazeera staff travelling to Libya to cover the elections.

Each participant was asked to record and upload one minute length videos asking Libyans would they vote in the election and what their expectations were of the elections.

Poor internet connectivity and limited bandwidth meant that videos were not able to be received and processed in time for the feature page for the elections, although they were taken up on Al Jazeera’s user-generated content platform, Sharek (meaning to share/participate).

However there was a plan B. As in the Uganda case, local lines were set up where Libyans could call or SMS their responses. Again these were plotted on an interactive map, with in-house staff providing translation.

Gaza Voices

The last campaign of 2012 centred around the Israeli operation “Pillar of Defense” on Gaza. Again, an interactive map featured responses and prominent voices on Twitter, from both sides.

For this instance (a breaking, high intensity news event), there was also a call for local voices – both Palestinian and Israeli, to speak to new media staff and record their testimony. These ranged from calls with bombing audible in the background to citizens in Tel Aviv describing some disruption to their everyday lives but not being under any direct threat or danger. The calls were recorded and featured on a Soundcloud playlist in raw form.

Two things struck me from the audience response during and after the presentation. The first is how little the public at large, as well as fellow media organisations, knew about these activities.

Senior news folks still need to be convinced of the merits of the social world in allying risks of mis-news, misinformation and liability


Secondly, even within media circles the discussion of how to use social dominates how social is actually and actively used. The premise of social media is that to have an online presence you need an offline presence.

It is not enough to have a Twitter, Facebook or YouTube account, to include hashtags and handles and track analytics, if you don’t have the people.

Aren’t people what are at the heart of news stories and the communities that come together and enable social platforms?

I do think that those working in social media today still constitute a bridge – the media generation to come will have grown up with social and digital media as second nature while at the other end senior news folks still need to be convinced of the merits of the social world in allying risks of mis-news, misinformation and liability.

The success of people working in this field presently will be in their redundancy. When we can step back and see our present efforts – building campaigns, strategies and training staff  as second nature in newsrooms – as inherent, it will be time to move on. By then we will have hopefully graduated to building more innovative ideas in media and looking at the next big social and digital things.

Where then does trust fit into this conversation? Trust in journalism is built on elements such as reputation, representation, content and relationships.

If you are in media and want to tap into the ‘wisdom of crowds,’ this is not going to happen if you only run to your sources when there is a breaking news event

If you are in media and want to tap into the ‘wisdom of crowds,’ this is not going to happen if you only run to your sources when there is a breaking news event.

It is in taking the time, in building those offline communities and relationships, not because of your brand but because of the reputation that you genuinely care about the people behind the news story and as such are exercising your responsibility to extend the journalism platform, the (proverbial) microphone to them.

Your audience then not only becomes loyal, but also your advocate and is more willing to forgive you when mistakes are made.

If you want to be in social media, you’ve got to be social. Perhaps then it’s less the technological savvy but the human-social traits that should be looked for when bringing the social to media.

*The slides and links from this piece are available on Slideshare