I'm a writer and I will soon arrive in Turkey to cover the Gezi Park protests -- super excited. I haven't been there since my fellowship in 2001! I'd like to ask your advice because I really want make sure my stories break new ground and demonstrate my deep understanding of modern Turkey. It shouldn't be too hard to stand out, right? I mean, it's not like there's anyone there already writing anything useful. Most Turks speak English, right? Where do I buy a gas mask?
Hoş geldiniz (welcome!). We here at Carpetblog World Headquarters are thrilled that you've submitted the question because we've been dying to offer our advice on this topic but no one has ever asked.
What follows here are some phrases and visuals that we strongly suggest you include in your stories. They will go a long way to showing that you can both nail Istanbul's sense of place after just 36 hours and still grab a refreshing Efes at one of Beyoğlu's charming outdoor cafes.
We respect you too much to suggest you get some variation of "Turkish delight" or "bridge between east and west" in your headline or lede. Any intern can get that right. We do suggest you soak in the carnival-like atmosphere at Gezi Park and find a couple of locals -- one in a headscarf, the other in a mini-skirt --walking around arm in arm. It may be hard to find the headscarf girl at this particular event but don't give up easily. At the moment, there is no minaret at Taksim to complete the miniskirt visual. Shouldn't be too long before one gets built but don't make that mistake now. Embarassing.
Istanbul is a mixing pot of cultures: It doesn't matter that the Armenians mysteriously disappeared after World War I, the Greeks and Jews left in the 1950's and the Kurds are only just now starting to descend from the mountains. Europe! Asia! Continents meeting! That's all you need to say. It remains a powerful metaphor that can't be used too often.
Street cats: OMG cats! They're everywhere in Istanbul and are so cute and healthy-looking too. More pictures please! Maybe a tumblr with lots of moody hipstamatic vignetting and oversaturation, if you have extra time.
Pronunciation of Erdoğan's name: That little "g" with a hat is hard to pronounce correctly. Just harden it. No one will notice.
Gezi Park is central Istanbul's last park: It would be too hard in this heat to walk downhill to Tophane Park (which is small but has trees and grass), or north a few blocks to Maçka park (big, with trees and grass) or to Sanatkalar Park (which has grass and junkies, but no trees). Gezi Park has been variously (and acrimoniously) described as a few square blocks full of rats, used condoms, tinercis, homeless, concrete, a few trees, some trees, thousands of trees, and, as of very recently, dirty hippies. Go ahead and shorthand all that and refer to it the Hyde Park of Istanbul. We know what you mean.
Explain How X Event Affects Turkey's Chances to Join the EU: Turkey's highest aspiration is not to be a regional power broker with a booming economy and a bursting middle class, but rather be France and Germany's redheaded stepchild tasked with bailing out Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal. Some handwringing about its accession prospects is never unwelcome.
The Inherent Melancholy (hüzün) of Istanbul: Go hang out in Nişantaşı and talk to some Kemalists despondent over the headscarves driving Rangerovers. That's some serious gloom for you.
Carpetblog is here to make sure that you don't fall into common traps that have embarrassed your colleagues behind their backs at dinner parties for years. You can thank us later.
If you really want to see how it's done, follow on twitter @Aylajean, @Piotr_zalewski, @theTurkishLife, @JoeWSJ, @AChristieMiller, @aaronstein1, @FinkelAndrew, @Hugh_Pope, @RoyGutmanMcC, @aylushka_a, @BenjaminHarvey, even though none of them ever listen to Carpetblog advice.*
*No, really, those guys are the bosses of this story -- correspondents and freelancers alike, many of whom are Friends of Carpetblog -- and they are reporting their asses right off. Mad props to them. Lots of others are too! No hate! Some even report in languages we don't speak. We're pretty sure they're awesome too, but are looking for some outside confirmation first.