ECHO CHAMBERS: A LOOK AT TURKEY'S JOURNALIST COMMUNITIES ON TWITTER

DR. SARPHAN UZUNOĞLU
HAZAL SENA KARACA

The negative effect of political polarization in Turkey on the media and democratic discussion is among the elements most often referred to in the studies on Turkey’s media space. Polarization has become a very often used concept to describe the transformation of political choices and structural limitations in the freedom of speech. We are all somewhat aware of what polarization is as a concept. It is quite common to coincide the traces of the existence of different neighbourhoods in Turkey, be it a very regular street interview or polls regarding political tendencies done by research institutions. 

 

This study aims to discover, in an environment where almost everyone in the society acknowledges the polarization, the points where polarization is the strongest and potentially at a breaking point by making use of Social Network Analysis (SNA). We try to discover the many different communities of journalists on Twitter and reveal the most effective actors in the dynamics of each of these neighbourhoods by observing the use practices of Twitter of a sample of 100 journalists who work on mainstream or alternative media and meet the “effective user criteria” on Twitter. 

The accounts and activities of the journalists observed within the scope of this research do not represent the whole media industry in Turkey comprehensively. However, it was observed that the ones that are similar to each other in terms of closeness to a political party, the business enterprise they work for, or professional background are in interaction with each other on a regular basis. We revealed that while unfortunately the old saying that media consists of different neighbourhoods is, in fact, true, there are actors that still have the power to connect and convey information through different neighbourhoods. Some of our findings are regarding the community dynamics which is not surprising, especially for those who have been using Twitter for many years. Others, on the other hand, reflect the traces of the political journeys of central media figures, who were swept left and right during the transformation process of media ownership in Turkey.

We can summarize our findings in this research in which we used a large number of graphics and network maps, as follows:

 

  • The radical fracture in the media in Turkey after 2016 seems to create intimacy (following each other) between conservative democrats or liberal democrats and secular-nationalists and left-democrats who were the central figures in the past. 

  • Considering whether the journalists follow each other or not, it is seen that there is a polarization between the neighborhood formed by right-conservative journalists and left-democratic groups. For instance, there is a serious distance on the map between a journalist from Yeni Şafak and a journalist producing content for DW Turkish.

  • It is difficult to mention the existence of the central media in Turkey. Every neighborhood has some opinion leaders or popular figures whose voices are heard in the other neighborhood; but we cannot see a category that is central among themselves and relatively independent from other groups.

  • Although the journalists who were in the same groups in the central media in the past moved to newspapers of different political tendencies, some of them still follow each other and find themselves in a more central location of the network. 

  • İsmail Küçükkaya and Fatih Portakal, who became phenomenal with their presentations in the morning and evening bulletins of Fox News, are also located close to the center of the network map.

  • Like journalists, newspapers also interact with certain neighborhoods. For example, while broadcasts such as DW Turkish, Duvar, Diken are in one group, we see that broadcasts such as Star, Akşam, Takvim, Yeni Şafak belong to another group. 

  • Journalists such as Barış Terkoğlu, Kemal Can, İsmail Saymaz, and Hüsnü Mahalli stand out with their ability to interact with or receive interaction from different neighborhoods.

  • According to our analysis based on the following relationship on Twitter, the actor that has the power to reach other journalists the fastest is Saygı Öztürk. He is followed by Barış Terkoğlu, Kemal Can, İsmail Saymaz and Abdurrahman Dilipak.

  • Journalists such as Soner Yalçın and Nihat Genç, who exclude themselves from others with their stances on political and social policies, are also excluded from the neighborhoods on the network map.