A disturbing lack of faith in the media

Published 09.11.2015 02:07
Updated 21.02.2016 14:19

In the past weeks a video went viral on social media and it was quite an accurate example of the lack of trust in media by the people of Turkey. In the video a reporter interviewed a retiree on a health issue. Here is their dialog:

Reporter: Have you ever used the free physiotherapy service provided by the state?

Citizen: Yes, three times.

R: Did you ever pay any money for it?

C: No, never. The state takes care of us nicely, free of charge.

R: But now the state will no longer pay for several specific services in that regard.

C: No, it will pay. They are all lies, don't believe them.

R: The decision was released in the Official Gazette this Monday.

C: They are lies, don't believe the newspapers.

R: Even the Official Gazette?

C: Yes. The state provides us with perfect service.

R: But the Official Gazette belongs to the state itself.

C: Don't believe the newspapers.

In Turkey, trust in the media is much lower than many other countries and this lack of trust supports a fact that numerous studies continue to point out. Of course faulty, biased and inadequate news articles continuously featured in Turkish media play a huge role in this.

To locate the source of the lack of trust, we need not look far. On Nov. 1, Turkey held an early general election. Nearly all articles and columns were chiming in unison that the results will be similar to the previous elections that took place five months ago. Some newspapers even took it one step further and came up with headlines like "Last day of the government" on the morning of the elections. The opposition media expected that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) would suffer a huge loss.

However, the ballot count showed that the AK Party once again reached the sufficient number of deputies to form a single-party government with one of the highest ratios in the history of free elections in the country. If we consider all of these as symptoms we find ourselves with three important problems:

First, the media is unable to understand society and continues to sever its bonds with reality, which resulted in inaccurate predictions. Second, the media's hold on the public has weakened as society is less influenced by the reality presented in the media and its ability to change perceptions. This also shows that trust in the media has lessened and that the media's power to draw attention to social issues has reduced. Third, the media's ideological motivation trumps its professional ones. As we look at newspaper circulation figures as well as television channel ratings, the repercussions of these problems are revealed.

One of biggest institutional failures in this election belongs to survey companies. Similar to the elections in the U.K. that took place a few of months ago, survey companies failed to predict the outcome here as well. Not only did they fail to predict it correctly, almost none of them even came close to predicting the real results. Prior to the elections, when Adil Gür and his company A&G predicted that the AK Party would receive 47 percent of the vote, many of his colleagues heavily criticized him for the survey. In the end though, the AK Party netted itself with 49.5 percent of the vote and survey companies had no choice but to accept their mistake and apologize.

This result also underlines the importance of ethical rules on publishing poll results, which we repeatedly feature on this page. As we have said before, polls are conducted by surveying a limited number of people and only reflect those interviewed at that time rather that the whole of society. Publishing survey results as scientific fact only misleads readers. I congratulate Daily Sabah for upholding those basic principles.

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