Asymmetric Temporalities in Collaborative Transnational Media Production: The Case of Turkey

Monday, 16 July 2018: 20:30
Oral Presentation
Noah ARJOMAND, Columbia University, USA
Much of the news that informs a global audience about Turkey is produced by teams of foreign journalists and local news assistants or "fixers." Similarly to researchers who rely on local partnerships or "key informants" for help with accessing communities, journalists need fixers' help making contacts and overcoming cultural barriers. Fixers also interpret their own societies for journalists, providing background information and explaining the perspectives of news subjects. Foreign journalists usually plan or are at least able to leave the area or country, sometimes within days. This contributes to a short-term perspective when it comes to considerations of safety, cultivating trusting sources, and risking problems with powerful local figures through critical reporting. Fixers, by contrast, necessarily have longer time horizons when reporting a story because they have roots in and likely plan to stay in the area, and because future journalist clients may ask them to secure access to the same communities or individuals. This research is based on interviews with foreign journalists and fixers reporting on Turkey as well as ethnographic fieldwork in Istanbul and Diyarbakir. I consider the ways that Turkish and Turkish-Kurdish fixers deviate from their employers' demands due to the asymmetry between their and client journalists' temporal relations to their work and how these behaviors shape the news that reaches the wider world. I analyze the ways in which fixers present themselves to interviewees and other local contacts, creatively translate between languages, and are selective about the introductions they make and background information they provide to their clients. I also address the strategies that foreign journalists use to manage the disjuncture between fixers' interests and time horizons and their own.