As we leave the elections behind

Published 14.06.2015 00:00
Updated 14.06.2015 22:57

As the week of June 8-14 is finally over, the election excitement has started to wane and we begin to look ahead. The June 7 general election was the third election process Daily Sabah has covered since it started its publishing life. The previous ones were the presidential election on Aug. 10, 2014 and the local elections on March 30, 2014.

As Daily Sabah's experience in calling and presenting elections grows further, I congratulate both our web and print team for their hard work that lasted well past midnight on election day. After a successful coverage of the elections we are now left with the aftermath.

As this is not a political page, I am not focusing on the aftermath of the elections themselves, but rather looking at it from a journalistic perspective. Three weeks ago we published an article in the Reader's Corner titled "Failed predictions and survey results" by İbrahim Altay to serve both as a warning and a guideline for journalists and survey companies. In the past there were many instances in which media or companies dedicated to surveying people's opinions and choices failed to successfully predict the results both in Turkey and abroad whether because of personal allegiances or because of poor analyzing. As for the guidelines, Altay said: "After the elections, I believe a respectable newspaper should question the consistency of the polls they published and share the result with their readers. This can incline survey companies to act more carefully next time." I believe as we have the survey results and unofficial results at this time, a report card for all survey results we published in Daily Sabah should be produced in order to get a better look at which of them were the most accurate. Two points may be in the acceptable margin of error, but 10 can easily be seen as perception management.

Speaking of perception management, prior to the elections, many columnists and news articles made remarks on the issue of election fraud. They were urging both international watchdogs and national citizens to hold onto their ballots until the last minute and follow up the counting process intensely. In response to this continuous bombardment of doubt and fear, individuals and new organizations as well as veteran ones kept a close watch on the elections. Personally, I find nothing wrong with that since it is their constitutional right. I even applaud them for taking the initiative. However, what I find wrong is injecting the public with the fear that their votes do not change anything. After all, even though a week has passed since the elections, we have not heard the same accusations and remarks about election fraud from these columnists or papers. This was not the case with the two previous elections for example. So, one cannot help but wonder if this was a case of the "journalist who cried wolf" or just plain old perception management.

Even though the elections are over, it does not mean other guidelines on how to publish survey results should be forgotten. After all the "newsification" of survey results may have started with publishing election polls in 1824 in The Harrisburg Pennsylvanian, but it certainly did not end there. Now every manner of polls gets its chance to be in the news whether it is about preferences for a technological gadget or an opinion on a political matter. With that in mind we should continue to cross-check our articles that contain survey results with the guidelines published in Altay's article.

Lastly, we said in the article, "Tendencies of Daily Sabah," which was published on May 31, 2015: "We also had regular names among our columnists with a seemingly guaranteed place in the top five. But throughout the year it seems that our reporters and editors also threw their hat in the game and sometimes we see weeks without a single column managing to get in the top 10."

It appears that last week our columnists and op-ed writers managed to claim almost half of the top 10 to themselves with four entries no less. Only time will tell if this was a spike owing to the elections or a genuine continuous rise in interest in those sections.

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