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 point.
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 Şeyma." It was the story of 12-year-old Şeyma, 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 Istanbul.
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 others.