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A year through the window of a newspaper's front page

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  • A year through the window of a newspaper's front page

    Hürriyet, Turkey
    Dec 31 2008

    A year through the window of a newspaper's front page

    ISTANBUL - If for humans, the eyes are the window on the soul, for
    newspapers that window is the front page.

    The year 2008 was a year of great expansion and change at the Daily
    News. A new "South" section for our growing number of readers along
    the Aegean and Mediterranean. A new and expanded business section, the
    "Economic Review." And in November, the consolidation of all this in a
    rechristening as the "Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review."

    As it was a dramatic year for the newspaper, so it was for Turkey and
    all the topics we covered. Just as in the lives of those who produce
    them, newspaper's front pages are sometimes energetic, sometimes
    weary, sometimes funny and sometimes emotional.

    And so as part of our year-end edition, we continue a minor tradition:
    a look back at the year in front pages. When were we at our best? As
    in all situations involving print, space is sovereign. The staff
    decided the "Top 10" format; to me falls the task of picking the 10
    "best" front pages of 2008, those where I think we came closest to the
    unreachable goals we set for ourselves.

    By that criteria, I think we began the year on Jan. 23. This was the
    front page whose main headline we produced in Greek. Translation: "The
    first visit in half a century." The occasion was the official visit to
    Turkey of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. But for us it was the
    first road test of a fledging "knowledge partnership" with the
    venerable Athens daily Kathimerini. We traded news and photos and
    analysis and our front page that day was a veritable bouquet of
    Turkish and Greek bylines.

    If that front page showed the Daily News at our universalist best, our
    irreverent side came out on Feb. 5. Amid the ceaseless debate about
    the appropriateness of the Islamic headscarf in universities, we went
    to a wig shop worried that an end to the headscarf ban would be bad
    for business. "Headscarfonomics: Wig shops wig out" was the result.

    Solemnity was the theme that dominated on March 1, as Turkish soldiers
    began returning home from a large incursion into northern Iraq that
    had begun the month before. "Homeward bound" said the headline across
    the back of a soldier. So much said in so few words.

    On April 17, we were clever. As court rulings clamped down on the
    ability of foreigners to buy property in Turkey, we led the front page
    with a "For Sale" sign with red lines X'd across it. That made the

    Another brief headline topped the page on May 3: "Outrage." This
    expressed the mood of many in Turkey in the wake of official violence
    and brutality against peaceful May Day demonstrators at Taksim
    Square. It also captured the mood of a newsroom that saw two of its
    staffers gassed and beaten on that sorry day for Turkish democracy and
    free expression.

    "Islam 2.0 project draws skeptical set of reviews" was our headline on
    June 6. This reflected a bit of intellectual daring. The story was on
    an enormous and encompassing review of Islamic liturgy to bring
    certain elements up to date with contemporary reality and
    standards. To borrow from software jargon for a story on the faith was
    a test. After counseling with several religious authorities who
    assured us this would not be taken as offensive, we proceeded.

    Our front page on July 29 was perhaps not dramatic, but the headline
    captured a horrific tragedy. "A family buries Å?eyma." It was
    the story of 12-year-old Å?eyma, killed on her birthday when a
    terrorist's bomb exploded just beneath the balcony of her parents'
    home where she was standing in the Güngoren district of

    Another front page topping my list was Sept. 5: "The 'Yes' echoing
    beyond Ararat." Set against the summit of the symbolic mountain at the
    border of Armenia and Turkey, our story was on the acceptance by
    President Abdullah of an invitation to a football match in Yerevan. It
    was a "yes" that continues to echo.

    There were many admirable headlines and front pages about the economic
    crisis that continues to deepen and tighten around us. So many
    headlines, in fact, that I choose not to pick the "best."

    Which moves me to Nov. 4 and the headline of the year around the
    world. "Globama" we wrote. Soon we will see if the world's many hopes
    and dreams of a new American leader will match Barack Obama's ability
    to deliver.

    And the best front page in my book as the year wound to a close was on
    the weekend of Dec. 20. "A Venus wish to politicos on Mars" covered a
    story on a women's organization sponsoring spoof posters around the
    country of top political leaders committing themselves to more women
    candidates in the upcoming local elections in March.

    We will see how successful that wish is in 2009, along with so many