An optimistic requiem for the publishing world

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In “The Running Novelist,” a 2008 short autobiography in The New Yorker, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami says, “I was about to turn thirty. I was reaching the age at which I would no longer be considered young. And, almost out of the blue, it occurred to me to write a novel.” Today, I share his sentiments.

The life of a newspaper editor is not easy. If you’re working in a politically and sociologically atypical country where words are interpreted beyond their literal or figurative meaning, it’s even more complicated. In such an environment, an editor is expected to consider all social dilemmas, what aboutism dead ends, trolls (including real ones), uncivilized discussion cultures, historical intellectual fronts, and other tedious factors. The alternative would be to simply indulge in political correctness, the villain of our time. Unfortunately, Turkey, my beloved country, is no exception.

Unlike difficulties, however, the joy of editing and writing is priceless. Playing with words, discovering their (im)real interpretations and creating a coherent and logical argument in a strategic and diplomatic piece, for example, is really satisfying. To some extent, this reflects activism. For the respective causes, you can communicate with the public, generate concrete material for mobilization or a sustainable future, or become a voice for those living under oppression and inhumane conditions. With its centuries-old roots and given the power it wields, content creation still stands out as an ethical profession.

Make transformation

However, it is true that there is another side to the medallion. Recently, writing, publishing and all other relevant fields have faced a tremendous transformation in a movement that we can say is not for the common good or ethics, but is transforming rather into a platform that we can no longer control. We may be quick to blame digitalization, rapid consumerism, or even savage capitalism as a whole for such chaotic change, but the matter is much more complex.

Amid the continued mass exodus from traditional methods into the tech realm, change has flooded content creation and publishing. Genres, titles, story presentation, and other major aspects of the industry have all evolved. For example, rather than humans, the algorithms of giant digital apps, search engines, or websites dominate the industry. You must first communicate with software to communicate with a reader.

In this new era, or whatever you call it, content is generally lost in the shuffle. In fact, it doesn’t even rank second in the priority list because before that, you also need to have enough followers whether or not most of them are fake accounts. If you’ve been following recent debates over Elon Musk’s Twitter offer, you’ll see the issues raised at the time prove my point. Speaking of Twitter and its imitators, people from all walks of life, including editors and members of the media, in particular, need to have massive exposure to be “visible” in order to establish a “reputation” and a ” hit”. You need a storm of likes, comments, and meaningful engagement. Otherwise, you are nothing. The rule of “publish or perish” has now become “obey social media or perish”.

Change is an absolute thing, an undeniable principle of nature; therefore, only a fool would expect the media to fail in a rapidly changing world. “The snake that cannot shed its skin must die”, as Friedrich Nietzsche said. It is quite normal that the media have also had a makeover, but the problem is that “modernization” has made them much less efficient than it was in the past. In this sense, I disagree with the categorization of “new media”, because media should always be new, up-to-date and catch up with the times. It’s his enthusiasm. Media is always new, so media is.

However, the evolution of the publishing industry where fundamental standards of ethics are gradually losing their importance compared to numbers is an inevitably apparent fact that we must accept. The declared war on communication tools to make them a machine of disinformation and manipulation will fail. The whole sector is desperately looking for a savior and this is possible with a return to ethics.

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