The first journalistic census research examining local media in Turkey, “The Local Media Database Research Project” aimed at providing a comprehensive situation analysis to identify the obstacles for the practice of freedom of information and expression by the local media organizations and local journalists. By the detection and monitoring of 3240 local media outlets from all cities in Turkey, demographic profiling and an institutional mapping of local media organizations have been provided as a comprehensive digital database including a detailed journalistic research report on press freedom at the local level.
The main objectives of the research project are: – To develop a database on the institutional mapping of local media organizations and professionals. – To understand the current situation of the local media by analyzing the demographic profiles, mapping the institutional capacities, and obstacles of the local journalistic practices. – To form a road map and future strategy for local media by increasing the collaboration among leading actors in the media sector. In line with the main objectives, the impacts of the project are: ● Short-term ef ects (up to 1 year) Within the scope of the research project, a comprehensive database on institutional profiling and mapping of 3420 local media organizations from all cities of Turkey has been provided for the usage of related actors (i.e., media organizations & journalists, media associations & unions, researchers, academics, civil society organizations, governmental bodies, and their representatives) ● Mid-term impacts (up to 3 years) By the instrumentalization of the local media database and collaboration among leading media actors within the project, significant improvement is expected in solidarity and cooperation among media networks for the formation of a road map and future strategy to solve the current problems of local media. The open database will also serve as a valuable resource for future researchers and academics who are focusing on media & journalism studies. ● Long-term impacts (from 3 years on) Through the implementation of the established road map & future strategy (within the research report) and with the increasing solidarity and cooperation among leading media actors as well as increased studies focusing on local media platforms, it is expected to observe the flourishing of new local media networks and mediums in local regions of Turkey. Subsequently, the project will contribute to the empowerment of local media outlets and their crucial role in
At the first step, the desk research has been conducted by examining all current media databases available in Turkey, thus the basic information on local media organizations (i.e., organizational names, communication details) has been acquired. For the verification and crosscheck of this information, a comprehensive web search has been conducted by the usage of a specially designed keyword list. This search enabled researchers to reach more detailed information on previously detected local media organizations (i.e., official publication channels, publication periods, main content themes) and also to discover new local media outlets. As a result, the team formed the universe of currently active local media outlets containing 3240 organizations from all cities of Turkey.
Subsequently, the acquired information from different sources has been integrated into a common data format called the “data card of local media outlets” that gathers all collected information about an organization under an institutional data profile. Followingly, these data cards have been compiled as city-based lists at the knowledge management system, JotForm.
In the second step, the quantitative field research has been designed for the verification of collected data and reaching more specific information (i.e., technical capacity, number of personnel, working conditions, censorship level) on local media organizations. During this step, the team conducted questionnaires with 1222 local media organizations. The online questionnaires have been conducted through Jotform and the acquired data from the field has been integrated with previously constructed local media data cards on the platform. Therefore, a verified and complementary set of data has been formed through the combination of acquired information via desk and field research.
As the final step, the collected data has been analyzed through various statistical tests at SPSS. Followingly, the interactive reporting and digital mapping of the data has been illustrated via Flourish
What was the hardest part of this project?
As it is well known, the local media organizations play a fundamental role as the main practitioners of freedom of communication, information, and expression in the regional areas farther from metropolitan centers. Considering their practices reflecting the problems and demands of local citizens and actors of civil society, local media outlets are also crucial for a well-functioning democracy and full enjoyment of fundamental rights & freedoms in the local context. However, the recent works show that local media is going through a survival crisis due to radically increasing political and financial pressures over the media sector in Turkey.
While these pressures drag many organizations into bankruptcy or closure, local media professionals are also impacted by the rising unemployment and worsening working conditions (i.e., insufficient wages, overworking, inadequate equipment,censorship, security threats) in the local media sector. Given these circumstances, local journalism is unable to perform its fundamental function as the guarantor of fundamental rights & freedoms ensuring democratization at the local level. Nevertheless, this problematic decline of the local media has not been adequately addressed in the national agenda and there is no current attempt to strengthen its critical role for the local democracy.
As a remedy to this deficit, “ The Local Media Database Research Project” has provided a comprehensive situation analysis by identifying the demographic characteristics and mapping the institutional capacity of the local media outlets. In this project, the research team has been challenged by the exhaustive level of journalistic monitoring and analysis of extensive data in addition to many obstacles in data access and verification. Still, the team has managed to form the first digital journalistic database on local media that will serve as an open-source for the formation of a road map eliminating the obstacles against freedom of expression and democratization at the local level.
What can others learn from this project?
As an open-source digital database, “The Local Media Database of Turkey” functions as an information source for the usage of all leading actors (journalists, academic researchers, civil society experts & activists, public servants, etc.) who conduct activities in the field of media & communication and freedom of expression. From this perspective, the project is a good example of how outcomes of data journalism can contribute to the attempts for strengthening freedom of expression and democracy, especially in countries under heavy censorship and authoritarianism. Moreover, in the project, a hybrid research model combining journalistic technics and academic (quantitative) methods has been applied. Thus, considering the exhaustiveness and complexity of the acquired data, the project constitutes an illuminating example for colleges who are eager to co-apply journalistic and academic research methods in their data journalism projects.