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Theses Doctoral

Behind the Bylines: Fixing World News in Turkey

Arjomand, Noah Amir

A chain of actors brokers the flow of information through news organizations and transforms local realities into international journalism. “Fixers” are a crucial intermediary link between foreign reporters and local sources, translating, arranging logistics and interviews, and otherwise assisting reporters in gaining access and interpreting events. Fixers’ social networks and management of exchange between reporters and sources, this study argues, significantly shape the news.
Brokers’ moral worlds, constituted by both norms of behavior toward brokers and norms that shape the behaviors of brokers themselves, are the focus of particular attention. How do news organizations, client journalists, and local news sources and power holders treat fixers? How do fixers navigate the uneven moral terrain created by conflicting expectations toward them? And how do their strategies for managing clients and sources shape the production of knowledge?
This study, based on ethnographic research conducted in Turkey between 2014 and 2016, explains fixers’ mediations and their effects on the news. Empirical chapters provide composite narratives of fixers to illustrate both variation in mediating practices and typical career trajectories, followed by theoretical discussions.
The production of international news, I argue, cannot be properly understood without reference to the national and local politics and media worlds that affect who becomes a fixer and what they use fixing to accomplish. Based on these contexts, some see fixing as an opportunity to gain recognition, as an apprenticeship toward a career in global journalism, or as a way to expand their social world; others see fixing as a way to remain anonymous while utilizing journalistic expertise they have developed, as a relatively safe form of activism in non-democratic political systems, or a step toward claiming refugee status. Patterns in who becomes a fixer and why affect the selection of “newsworthy” sources and events, the way local realities are transformed into information fed to client reporters, and the organizational structure of the foreign press corps. Fixers have difficulty, and are socialized to avoid, challenging overarching and preexisting meta-narratives, or frames, that foreign news organizations apply to Turkey and Syria. Nonetheless, they make use of “wiggle room” afforded them through the process of abstraction of local complexities into overarching narrative frames to shape international news in ways that are significant at the local level.
This study offers insights not only into the production of international knowledge about Turkey and Syria, but also into the process of brokerage, a universal phenomenon in all contexts involving coordination of action and sharing of knowledge across social difference.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociology
Thesis Advisors
Vaughan, Diane
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 21, 2018
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