In martial arts circles there is supposedly an adage that, "humility is the height of conceit." I believe this is a value we have internalized at the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t affect a bit of journalistic swagger when no one is looking. Usually at the bar in the basement after deadline. For often we feel pretty good about what we do. We are a small newspaper, our total editorial staff is less than 50. Our total circulation is roughly equivalent to the number of newspapers our parent Hürriyet runs off the press just to get the color registration right and then throws away. But it pleases us no small amount when the odd compliment comes our way confirming our own view of the critical role we play.
We had one of those moments a few weeks ago when I came to the office on a Sunday morning. No one was around. Suddenly, the main newsroom phone began to ring. I answered. On the other line was Ahmet Aksu, a reader in Istanbul’s Bahçeşehir district who had not received his weekend paper. Our brief conversation revealed his anger so I did not linger.
I took his address and told him I would see what we could do. I went to the Hürriyet garage where the fleet of drivers hang out; as I suspected they were not too busy early on a Sunday morning. I pleaded for a special delivery of the newspaper and one of the drivers cheerfully obliged. I forgot about the matter and returned to my office. About an hour later the phone rang again. And again it was Mr. Aksu. This time he was full of cheer, pleasantly surprised to have just received his paper. So I asked him: "Obviously you don’t read the newspaper because you lack access to the Turkish language media (we were speaking in Turkish). Why do you buy the Daily News?"
"It’s simple," he responded. "It’s the best newspaper in Turkey, in any language. I don’t need a lot of opinion, I don’t need emotion, I just need to know what happened yesterday. In your newspaper that’s what I get."
I break our time honored tradition of circumspect modesty this weekend for, well, enough is enough. Our reporters and editors have been doing such a damned good job. I just thumbed through two weeks’ worth of papers to prove my point.
On Nov. 17, the Daily News’ Cansu Çamlıbel reported that a Norwegian prospecting ship under Turkish contract was running tests in waters in search of oil or gas near the Greek isle of Meis, setting tempers aflame in the Greek Foreign Ministry. The next day, this story was leading both the Greek and Turkish press.
On Nov. 24, a week’s behind-the-scenes prospecting by Barçın Yınanç in Istanbul and Göksel Bozkurt in Ankara bore paydirt. Yes, sources confirmed, the government was planning to make way for new guests on the island of İmralı, bowing in effect to pressure from Europeans worried that isolation was driving convicted terrorist Abdullah Öcalan into depression. The next day the story was on virtually every front page in Turkey. It remains there.
Two days later, the Daily News reported that President Abdullah Gül would make a symbolic visit to the restive southeast for the "Kurban Bayram" holiday. Anyone doubting we had the story days before any other newspaper can settle the issue with a quick search on Google or Yahoo. On Friday, he decided to postpone the visit due to an ear infection, but still the Daily News got the scoop.
On Dec. 2, Göksel Bozkurt again lead his colleagues in Ankara with the story that a holiday card made by parliamentarian Osman Özçelik, expressing best holiday wishes in both Turkish and Kurdish, was reject by the Parliament’s press office and described as written in "an unknown language." That story too found its way into many other newspapers. I was particularly pleased to see it picked up in another English language newspaper, which quite professionally credited Göksel.
If you have not done so already, please read our interview in today’s paper with Parliamentary Speaker Köksal Toptan. It reflects the teamwork of Ankara bureau chief Serkan Demirtaş and, naturally again, Göksel. Trust me, whatever Toptan has to say, you won’t see it elsewhere until Monday.
And when we return to work after the bayram we will again do so in our customary fashion of humility and modesty in public. I hope you will forgive this brief break for braggadocio. In the meanwhile though, we privately concede that Mr. Aksu is right. The Daily News, hands down, is the best newspaper in Turkey.
Mr. David Judson is the editor-in-chief of the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review