Things were calm and smooth with no breaking news or developing stories when we were about to publish Daily Sabah’s Monday edition on Sunday evening. I even called one of my friends to make a quick, random plan to play table tennis near the seaside in Kadıköy’s Kalamış neighborhood. I packed up my bag with two rackets, five balls, a bottle of water and a T-shirt. I also put my basketball in the bag so maybe we could practice some free throws. But things changed in the blink of an eye as my phone and laptop started getting notification after notification.
First, Anadolu Agency (AA), Türkiye's state news agency, popped up breaking news saying a blast had hit the heart of Istanbul, Istiklal Street. The others, including Reuters and The Associated Press (AP), quickly followed. I rushed to Twitter and saw the hashtag of #taksim with only a few tweets. Then a video showing a flame in the beloved pedestrian route appeared in my timeline. After a moment of silence, it was time to share the unfortunate story, and we did so. The more I saw graphic content, the more I did not want to scroll down on Twitter.
In a short period, authorities confirmed the deaths of four people, and the casualties were later updated to six, while the number of wounded has risen to 86. Ambulances with sirens flocked, police cordoned off the tragic scene, reporters arrived, official statements, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s terrorism condemnation, and you know the rest.
Though you know the details of the incident, you may have missed The New York Times (NYT) coverage of the bloody attack that claimed innocent lives. I’m leaving its link here.
Frankly speaking, being a journalist in the NYT global network or an editor on its editorial board is a dream job for all journalists and editors all around the world. The experience they have and the quality of the content they produce are incomparable. They are the flagship of international newspapers. But linking a terrorist attack with tourism revenues is unacceptable under any circumstances. You read that right: At the moment of a bloody attack that killed innocent people, a piece prepared by Ben Hubbard and Safak Timur and contributed by Carlotta Gall received widespread criticism for their insensitive focus on Istanbul's tourism income. In the Twitter post for the article, the NYT said, “Of the tens of millions of tourists from around the world who visit Turkey each year, many spend time in the area where Sunday’s bombing took place.”
I targeted Mr. Hubbard, the paper’s Istanbul bureau chief, on Twitter, and mentioned my efforts to emphasize with him in choosing the controversial perspective. I’m sorry, but the only implication that comes to my mind is that his journalism reflexes are trapped in his newsroom’s raving Türkiye policy.
“People were killed, Ben. People,” I said, and I was right.
In a later, general news analysis, the perspective could a good choice, as it is not rocket science to conclude that such a terrorist attack in any tourist hub in the world would negatively affect tourism revenues, at least in the short term. But when the painful memory is fresh for an entire nation, such a perspective was intolerable and only serves as a provocation. It’s not in line with media ethics.
Meanwhile, I can sense that I'm hearing some colleagues cursing me about “jailed journalists” in the country as they are reading my criticism of the holy NYT. Bingo, huh? Please keep your whataboutisms to yourselves, my dear friends.
A bonus gentle reminder for NYT reporters and editors: The PKK is a terrorist group that terrorizes Türkiye and its region. They are not “Kurdish militants” that “the Turkish state has also been at war with for decades within the country’s southeast.” (Please do a quick Google search for the definition of “terrorism.”) As an avid reader of the NYT, I’m sick of their stereotyped background showing the PKK monsters as fighters for rights. Why aren't you?
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