Aug 22, 2012

Mehveş Evin on why it's a good time to be a digital news entrepreneur in Turkey

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After almost two decades in the industry, Millyet columnist Mehveş Evin knows journalism. And with wide experience at senior level - she's held editorial roles at several news and lifestyle magazines, weekly newspaper editions, as well as being the managing editor of a leading Turkish daily newspaper and its website - she understands the challenges of the business of journalism in the Digital Age.

And of this she has little doubt: providing a platform for strong, independent voices is not only valuable for Turkish society, but is also critical for the long term success of any media enterprise. 

Mehveş is amongst the international team of inspirational speakers and coaches contributing to the first 48-hour MADE: Turkey Weekend for Media Startups that kicks off at 6pm on Friday, Oct 5 at the Energy Museum on IBU's Santral Campus. The deadline for application is 5pm on September 5th.
Q1 - Turkey remains a challenging place for independent journalism. What role do you think digital news entrepreneurs have to play in an increasingly connected country? 
The fact that Turkey is a challenging place for independent journalism is actually a bonus for digital news entrepreneurs. In countries where freedom of expression is still a problem, where the traditional media is too slow or unwilling to report news, digital journalism is a perfect tool to reach more people and even more efectively. The question is, how should we use digital tools? And perhaps the most challenging question for entrepreneurs: How can we make independent news and earn money at the same time? I think digital entrepreneurs should look for new, innovative ways. 
Q2 - Like in most of Europe, Turkey's mainstream media is dominated by a few cross-media conglomerates. What opportunities do you think there are for grassroots media startups to challenge the status quo?
It’s not easy, we know it. But at the same time, everybody talks about digital news and social media growing very fast… Young people are getting more and more digitized. Even a small spark can challenge the status quo. “Good journalism” is a must, however not enough by itself. Grassroots media startups should keep in mind that “digital journalism” does not mean “to digitize news” but to deliver news in different ways. 
Q3 - Is it wise for entrepreneurs to take risks with digital innovations at time when many in the traditional media are struggling with it?
Entrepreneurship by definition means taking a risk! Yes, the traditional media has the power, finance and resources. But usually, they lack to catch up with innovations and fastly changing world. They “digitize news”, put a few social media buttons on the side. Or try to generate traffic by using cheesy photos. None of them is encouraging local news, citizen journalism nor is fast enough to grasp technological opportunities. Newcomers have the advantage to overcome these weaknesses.    

Q4- The MADE project is, so far, operating in the UK and soon in Turkey. How do you expect the project activities to differ in the various locations, particularly given the different economic and socio-political factors in the two countries?
Economically, it might be even easier for a media startup in Turkey. People are keen to use the internet, but the quality and depth of news making is not necessarily the same as in the UK… If we look at the socio-political factors, the traditional media is lagging behind even when reporting about a fierce fighting in our country- 10 days behind! This is the case not only hard news. People lack the knowledge of whats going on in their own city, neighborhood or street. We lack transparency in every single governmental or private decision and/or attempt. This is why I’m expecting many new, exciting and fresh ideas flourish at the MADE activities in Turkey.   

APPLICATIONS for one of the 20 places on the MADE: Turkey Weekend for Media Startups are being accepted until 5pm on the September 5th. For regular updates, follow us on Twitter and join the conversation in the MADE Network group on Facebook.

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