Introducing Turkish tech journalists: Cem Kıvırcık

A journalism career since 1983 and he was in the middle of everything in the tech revolution in Turkish media

Cem Kıvırcık is one of the most senior tech journalists in Turkey. He told me that I can call him “Last of the Mohicans” and he started his career translating stories from Billboard for Hey Magazine, a Turkish youth and music magazine. That was in 1983 and now he is 55 and he believes technology keeps him young, adding that he learns from the young generations and he can teach to them. From his favorite gadgets to his comments on the Turkish media scene, from his journey in photography to his career in tech journalism…here is what he told me

As far as I know you started journalism in tabloids. How did you switch to tech journalism? Can you tell me about your story?

Actually, let me start with a correction. After finished my first year at Marmara University Faculty of Communication, I started in Hey Magazine of Milliyet Publications as reporter. Exact date is August 3, 1983. Hey was the one of the best selling youth and music magazine of the country. Established in 1970 by Dogan Sener (R.I.P.) who passed away a few months ago. So, I was really proud of being a part of that magazine. When Mr. Sener saw me first time, gave me a Billboard magazine and wanted me to translate some news. I still remember clearly my first news was about Men Without Hats music band. Couple of months later, they sent me exclusive interviews with some celebrities. I met with many local and international stars thanks to my profession.

– Who is your role model in journalism as a veteran journalist?

It might seem very arrogant act, however I am not a type of follower of a role model. Of course I admire some people who did great job. But as the song says “I did it my way” with a lot mistakes, regrets and happy days. All I can say is my mom wanted me to be like Ugur Dundar who is well known investigative journalist of Turkey. Despite her will, I preferred another path. Now I think to myself, it’s much safe and secure way. Cause I hate politics. And, you see the journalists who write about politics in Turkey. Half of them are called as “sold”, the other half is in the jail or dealing with prosecutors.

– How was technology journalism in the first days of your career? Can you compare it with today?

Haha! Good old days. Well my technology adventure started with a Commodore 64 computer in 1984. And, besides playing all day I tried to explore BASIC. But it was too boring to me and I couldn’t have gone further than “10 – PRINT “CEM” 20 – GOTO 10”… Okay, just kidding… I tried some Assembler and wrote some software and in 1986 I have prepared a technology page for Sunday Extra of daily Güneş. During technologic revolution in Turkish press, I was in the middle of everything. I was the one all the managers ask what kind of computers, software, etc they should buy. In 1997 after I went back from UK, started in Milliyet Periodicals again. And, my main job was dealing with international publishing companies to get new licenses for magazines, books, etc. My manager asked me if we could publish a PC magazine. I told him we should publish an internet magazine. He said “What?”… Then I persuaded him and I got license of .net magazine from Future Publishing of UK. During those days internet was immature. New generation cannot understand how we connect internet via dial up modem by a telephone. Well, I sometimes I miss that “handshake” sound of the modem. It was annoying noise but I miss it anyway. All of we were very naives regarding internet. Most of our bosses did not believe in the Internet. They acted like “Okay, Internet is a good thing, play with it, that’s all.” Conventional newspapers and magazines were their main business. Now, there is no conventional press left and they make money on the Internet.

– Nowadays we see smartphones turned into cameras And I know you are a huge fan photography. So do you agree that smartphones are good gadgets for photography?

Well, I am not a photographer. I am someone who like to take photographs. During my presentations I call myself as a “Japan tourist” who takes whatever he sees. In 1970s my aunt has brought a simple camera from US and left it for me. Then I started to take family photographs. I think I knew how to frame. That’s why I don’t exist in family pictures. Cause I am the photographer, and this is our destiny. At high school, our English teacher Mr. Sinan was a keen photographer. I was at photography club and my English level is much more higher than the rest of the class. He always let me to spend my time in dark room during his classes. So, I improved my knowledge with learning developer chemicals, printing, etc thanks to him. I took some pictures for publications which I worked for, too. But there were photo reporters coming with me and photography was a side business for me. Transition from analog photography to digital, I wasn’t so keen at all. When a digital camera was gifted to me, I did not touch it about two years. Now, people make some discussions about smartphone cameras will replace the digital cameras. Of course, there are some dramatic numbers to prove that claim. In last 10 years digital camera market decreased 93 percent because of smartphones. If the smartphones are good gadgets for photography? No need for my approvement. It’s obvious. However, I always say that no matter what you use for photography. A simple pinhole device, or a well improved, expensive camera, or million megapixeles smartphone. Main thing must be the photograph which you create. The rest is all details.

– You have been reviewing gagdets more than 20 years. What were the most surprising ones for you? Can you mention the top 5 for you?”

1 – Huawei P40 Pro 5G is my new toy and it’s the best so far for photography. I really enjoy to have it.

2 – Google Glass. So sorry it’s not on the market yet.

3 – Anker Nebula Capsule. It’s a “can size” entertainment box which I love.

4 – Nokia 808 Pureview smartphone. It was beyond its time. In 2012, 41 MP Zeiss-powered camera, what the heck!

5 – Sony VAIO T series ultrabook. I cannot understand how Sony ruined VAIO.

– What do you think about the current Turkish media scene?

Turkish media?.. Still exists?.. Haha kidding… That’s the typical old dinosaur reaction. I think it’s a kind of nostalgia feeling. If we’re talking about technology side specifically, all I can say is “If you are on YouTube you exist, otherwise noone cares you including companies”. A few days ago, someone wrote about me on social media as “the most humble influencer”. I don’t know how to react that. Influencer? Me? Thank God, although I am 55, I can still have communicaton with younger generations about technology. I believe that technology keeps me young. I learn a lot from them and in my opinion teaching and learning thing is a vice versa situation. They teach me I learn, I teach them they learn. They have fresh memory and I have experience. That’s it. My dream is uniting all technology media members under the same umbrella. No need any association although I am the vice president of IT Media Association. Unfortunately people are so egoistic and this is very difficult. For instance, more than five years I am running MediaTrend which is a technology blog supported by MediaMarkt. 15-16 different technology editors of different companies, etc support MediaTrend with news and articles. Last year, we have added 5-6 different content providers as well.  They produce videos, articles, etc. It’s a good thing competition and collaboration go together. I believe it must be this way, and I feel very proud of achieving that. And, I must thank MediaMarkt managers, personnel for their vision, supporting this idea and believing in me in this project. They are doing great. Now my dream is exporting MediaTrend project to other countries. Why not?

– That’s all I want to know. If you have anything extra, just add it.

As Charles Darwin says “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”. So if you’d like to survive you should adapt yourself to change. This is my motto.

By the way you can read my interview with Levent Pekcan, as a Turkish journalist, clicking here.

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