Levent Kenez, the editor-in-chief of Meydan daily. (Photo: Today’s Zaman, İsa Şimşek)
Levent Kenez, the editor-in-chief of Meydan, a newcomer to the media landscape in Turkey during a difficult time, when the government’s pressure on the press is at its peak, vows to defend liberties and freedom of speech and expression while upholding democratic principles.
In an interview with Today’s Zaman, Kenez said the editorial line of the paper will be mainstream, with a target audience being all walks of life. “Our priority is to cover the problems Turkish citizens encounter in their daily lives,” he stated.
The first issue of the newspaper will be published on Monday. The publisher of Meydan is the Feza Media Group, which also owns the dailies Zaman and Today’s Zaman, the largest circulated dailies in the country, as well as Aksiyon, the Cihan news agency and Irmak TV.
The group has been under heavy pressure from the government because of its unwavering stance on covering corruption and major wrongdoings in the government, especially since corruption scandals in December 2013 exposed a massive graft network that incriminated senior government officials.
Kenez said Meydan will be quite a different paper from Zaman, which already boasts a daily circulation of some 1 million readers, with a rich content and intellectual editorial line. He made clear that Meydan will offer a different perspective on news reporting and will host a distinct layout. “We have always contemplated publishing a newspaper that is a lighter read, with big photos and colorful pages — one that covers entertainment news, celebrity stories, and has puzzles,” he noted, adding that the launch of the publication has nothing to do with the current political climate in Turkey, though he adds, “Perhaps the [political] environment we experience in Turkey has motivated us to do more and produce more content.”
Stressing that many media groups in Turkey have more than one daily newspaper to supplement their lead publication and cater to diverse readership, Kenez said Zaman has lacked a tabloid style of publication for years. “We have always wanted to be in this sector. We want to reach new readers,” he emphasised.
Noting that in today’s fast-paced daily routines, people have difficulty finding time to read the newspaper thoroughly, the Meydan editor-in-chief promised to deliver summaries and to-the-point news to its audience.
The web edition will be different from the print edition, Kenez explained, adding that they are thinking more along the lines of running a news-portal type website for Meydan with richer supplementary content.
Asked whether the timing has anything to do with upcoming June national election, Kenez said the newspaper aims for the long haul and will hopefully be around for many years. “If you tie your whole existence to a single event, than you won’t matter after that event takes place,” he explained.
Kenez does not hide the fact that it is a risky proposition to publish a new newspaper in Turkey amid a difficult political climate and worsening economic outlook. “We strongly believe in this project and feel there is a need for a daily with strong content. Of course there are risks involved. But when there is no risk, there is no reward, as the saying goes,” he said.
Meydan in Turkish means a “challenge,” a “dare” or “defiance”. It also means a “square” or an “open space.” Kenez explained how his team chose the name Meydan, saying they came up with different brand names for the new newspaper, but that licensing, registration and patent issues of a new name takes time. Instead, the publisher decided to purchase branding rights for Meydan, a name that was already registered and patented. “We got quite excited with the name Meydan when the possibility of purchasing the brand first emerged,” he recalled. “We’ve come to like it.”
Kenez pointed out that they have already enlisted quite influential columnists as contributors to the newspaper, with prominent journalist, poet and author Yılmaz Odabaşı among them. Turkish pop singer Atilla Taş, who was recently detained because of his witty tweets critical of the government, and later released, will also contribute.
Other contributors include Taraf daily’s former managing editor Oğuz Karamuk, artist Aslıhan Erkişi, Arif Erdem, Altan Tanrıkulu, Cafer Solgun, Cemil Tokpınar, İhsan Yılmaz, Fevzi Özgönül, Turgay Oğur, Hacer Özkaya, Cem Güler, Abdullah Kılıç and Mehmet Bulut.
Ömer Şahin will be the Ankara bureau chief for Meydan and will also contribute to the newspaper as a columnist. Şahin previously worked for the Doğan Media Group as the Ankara representative of the Radikal daily.