When I talk of "hot metal," most at the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review think I’m referring to music played by the band of Taylan Bilgiç, our business editor. True, when I go over an evolving front page by phone with Nejat Başar, our news editor, or his deputy Suraj Sharma, we resort to the jargon of my youth. How many "decks" in the headline? But mostly this is a pale and improvised grammar compared with the argot of the departed "legman" and his "rewrite" colleague: "Open quote," "close quote," "slug it" and the final command, "-30-."
In a world where "bytes" have replaced "takes" as units of measurement, "UV" has replaced "circulation" and "ads" are now "banners." The language of our trade is that of İrem Köker, the managing editor/interactive who has been so busy in recent weeks. "Wait for Americans to wake up," or "Don't wait until the statement ends, publish it sentence by sentence." We must worry about "tagging our stories" and debate to find the best headline for "Google optimization," as well as "news judgment for the Web." This is all a way of introducing readers of the Daily News to the fact that as of Monday, the Internet will be a very different Web site. In addition to more news, the site will bring readers more of the tools now standard in the cyber version of our craft. That is to say blogs, and comment fora and aggregated links to like-minded media partners. And more features will be added as we move forward with the aim of serving our readers, every time they visit, a brand new publication as it evolves in its own cyber life.
What readers will not see, however, is a great deal of innovative technology backstage, technology that will make the minute-by-minute production of our Web site unique. Readers have also been spared the wrenching internal debate of recent months, the endless nights of design and redesign, the ongoing changes in job descriptions and the pain for young staffers with the slow education of an editor-in-chief. But from this crucible has emerged a new set of principles that govern the way we go about our business.
The Internet transformation of the news business has produced great debate and agony in our industry internationally. This is particularly so in the United States where the collapse of the old business model, before the emergence of the new, has wrought havoc. Having sighted this technological tsunami while it remains at a distance we act in anticipation, not reaction. So it is worth a few lines here on how we are approaching this confluence of change in the way news is collected and disseminated, how our culture of journalism is adapting and how our implied contract with readers is expanding.
For one, we have concluded that this is not an "either/or" proposition. We believe that given access to the two alternatives, most readers want both. Starting the day or finishing it, or setting aside a few hours on the weekend, the printed page is the preferred tool for thoughtful reading and understanding. Checking breaking news or market developments throughout the day, a computer screen, or increasingly a mobile phone, is the sensible tool. Most readers report they tend to blend the two. When you read an interesting movie review in the newspaper, you are likely to turn to a searchable database on the Internet to find a cinema. You might check online updates hourly on growing street violence in Tehran. But for the history and context of the overthrow of Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953, words printed on paper remain the first choice.
So we will be trying to enable this compliment between the two media more effectively. Once we catch our breath from the ordeal of Web page redesign, for example, we are mulling wholesale changes in the Weekend newspaper Ğ the sector that readers tend to give the most of their time. New supplement projects are in the works. And we also believe we can improve the value proposition to advertisers with a more nuanced management of this newsprint-electronic duality.
But the most important principle I need to share here is the one that supports all I have described above: We have sought to reorganize our own thinking about the news business, our "mental map" if you will about our organization. Like most newspapers, we also fell prey to an industry conceptualization that was, "we are a newspaper, and yes, we have a subsidiary Web site." This is nostalgia. Now, we must be a "news organization that disseminates its work through a printed version and an electronic version." This strikes the outsider as a marginal nuance; it is not. For it is the former construct which has led to the practice of two separate teams, usually divided by age and temperament, as well as by technology and training, for the Web and newspaper.
This is now gone at the Daily News. Yes, there is specialization aplenty and there will be more as we move into planned exercises in multimedia reporting or the arcanery soof mething called "Twitter" that I still fail to understand. Henceforth, the editor who decides which artist profile will grace the top of the newspaper’s culture section will be the same person who establishes the priorities and placement within the culture pages on the Web. The inevitable news meeting debate we have with each development on the proposed "Nabucco" pipeline - is this a business story or a diplomacy story? - will decide where the story winds up in both print and electronic form. Inspiration has come from many directions. By day we have borrowed ideas from the likes of technologist Erhan Acar of our parent starship hurriyet.com.tr. In the dark of night, we have stolen ideas from the likes of Reha Erdoğan, the art director of our more conventional parent, the newspaper Hürriyet. The hero in much of the drama has been physicist-turned-Web guru Murat Bıyıklı, whose patience I have exhausted more than once.
But mostly it is a burden that has been borne, and will be borne, by the 50-odd reporters, page designers and editors who staff the Daily News. I marvel at the fact that on any given day I am likely to receive at least one solicitation from a university someplace or an industry association offering enrollment in a seminar on the process I have been describing. Usually it has a title like "Integrating the 21st Century Newsroom" or "Rubbing Your Hands in Digital Ink." The expensive promise is a roadmap to do what we have done. Despite this attention, I have yet to identify a newspaper anywhere in the world that has fully made this transition to a unitary team.
We didn’t attend a seminar. We didn’t hire an outside consultant. This is not to say there has not been plenty of bitching and moaning; we are journalists after all and complaint is in our DNA. In the face of this explosion of new tasks and redistribution of old ones, our young staff just did it. On most days, we report history in the making. On Monday, we will make a little history of our own. I hope you will take a look at what we have done. You’ll find nothing exuding nostalgia at the new www.hurriyetdailynews.com.
* David Judson is editor-in-chief of Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.