Responsible journalism in times of economic speculation

İBRAHIM ALTAY
Published
Responsible journalism in times of economic speculation

In most cases irresponsible journalism that reports solely on rumors and speculation has limited consequences on society but it can have disastrous outcomes at the wrong moment; both journalists and the audience must be vigilant

Ever since we first started this corner, our main pursuit was to promote responsible journalism both locally in our own newspaper and globally throughout the media. We highlighted mistakes and proposed ethical principles, or lent our support to existing ones. Because at the end of the day, irresponsible journalism always causes harm to some party.

Sometimes it is a single person who is defamed in the media. Sometimes it is a group of people who are sitting on the crosshairs because of faulty rhetoric employed by irresponsible journalists. And sometimes it is an entire country.

There is no denying that Turkey is going through some troubling times. The recent tumble of the lira against other currencies has sparked fear of economic crisis in the hearts of Turkish people. The political crisis between Turkey and United States has added to those concerns as well.

In a time of uncertainty, people turn to even more to the media to get their news. They either want to be reassured or warned of upcoming difficulties. They want responsible journalism instead of rumors or speculative remarks they hear from their social circles.

In times like these, newspapers must be extra vigilant, because in a fragile situation such as the rapid fall of the lira last Friday, even a hint of instability, uncertainty and injustice can turn an economic crisis into an economic collapse of a country. I am talking about people rushing to the banks to take out their entire savings. I am talking about people hitting up stores to stockpile essential products for their survival. We have seen examples of it before therefore let's set that grim picture aside.

In a situation like this, it is no surprise that every bit of new development on the economy will draw a tremendous amount of readers. It will be shared, quoted and used as a source both locally and abroad. How should news media act in that situation?

Well the answer is obvious. They should not report on rumors. They should not use speculation as a credible news source. They should not lie. They should actually use their fact checking procedures. They should call up the related people whether they are officials or experts and ask for a statement. In other words, they should do their jobs properly.

Normally a rumormongering news article can generate a bit of buzz, but it would be disregarded after a while as the related parties deny the story. After all, although lies can travel halfway around the world before truth can put on its shoes, facts have a tendency to surface sooner or later. The news source in question loses credibility and reader base while life goes on.

But in this instance a similar article on economy can create a snowballing effect that can result in the scenario outlined above.

If you think that this article was simply to warn about future, you would be wrong. There were already instances where news articles and rumors on the crisis turned out to be false.

Here is one example. On Friday, several news websites reported that Turkey's Banking Regulation and Supervision Agency (BDDK) was set to hold talks with banks on Saturday to discuss the currency fall. These reports lend credence to the rumors that Turkey might switch over to a fixed exchange rate system or even some form of capital control. There were even rumors of seizing accounts. Naturally all these generated a great amount of worry. The BDDK then had to release a statement on its website that there was no such meeting planned.

While this story did not cause the tipping point of outright undue panic, the next story might. In a time like this, every newspaper must be able to think for itself instead of usual copy paste methods of reporting. A false rumor on a single news website can cause damage. But when it is echoed by every major publication of a country, it can turn into a disaster.

Using sources to get inside information is all well and good but it also opens journalists to the possibility of being manipulated by those who have a stake in seeing Turkey's economy crash. The same goes for political reporting as well. Having good sources is essential for journalism but only when it is tempered with responsibility.

We will see what the future holds for us. Let's hope that we will avoid going into the history books as the ones who rolled the snowball that turned into an avalanche.

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