Meet the OPC Members: Q&A With Ceylan Yeginsu

Ceylan Yeginsu is a correspondent for The New York Times in London. Previously, she served as correspondent for the Turkey bureau, where she covered politics, the Kurdish conflict, the rise of Islamic State and other stories. She earned a master’s degree in digital media at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in 2011 and was awarded the Brigid O’Hara-Forster Fellowship. Yeginsu started her career in 2008 as a reporter and editor for the Turkish newspaper Hürriyet. Before joining the Times in 2013, she worked as a freelance journalist in New York and Istanbul, writing for The Atlantic, The Economist, Huffington Post and International Business Times, among others.

Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey / London, England.

Education: University of Leeds (BA); Columbia University (MS, Journalism).

Languages you speak: English, Turkish.

First job in journalism: I began as intern and was then hired as a reporter for the English-arm of Hürriyet, at the time Turkey’s most-circulated independent broadsheet newspaper.

Countries reported from: Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, Greece.

When and why did you join the OPC? I joined the OPC earlier this year. After a five-year stint covering Turkey for The New York Times and a year or so covering the UK, I’ve seen first-hand just how important it is for journalists to support each other, particularly in challenging environments and times. I’ve been very lucky with the Times, but equally lucky to meet colleagues from other media organizations who have touched my professional life so far. The OPC is a way of staying in touch with colleagues I already know, meeting new ones, and perhaps even imparting some wisdom to future generations of journalists.

How did you become interested in the Middle East/Europe? Born in Istanbul, educated in England (BA, in classical civilization), and then back to Turkey for my first job in journalism, my interest in Europe and the Middle East was inevitable. The catalyst for my return to Turkey – which obviously strides both continents – was a strong gut feeling I developed after Columbia Journalism School that Turkey was going to develop into a big story. After almost a year of unsuccessfully applying for foreign postings in Istanbul from New York, I decided to move back and freelance. A few months after my return in 2013, the largest anti-government protests in recent Turkish history broke out. I ended up covering them for the Times, and being taken on by the newspaper’s Turkey Bureau, then headed up by Tim Arango. Working with Tim – who was also the newspaper’s long-serving Iraq bureau chief – only developed my interest in the region further.

Major challenge as a journalist:
Being a national of the country you are covering for an international media outlet, remaining independent and impartial – covering the news without “fear or favor,” – even in the face of targeted harassment and intimidation.

Best journalism advice received:

“Now take a step back.”

Worst experience as a journalist:
Watching dead children turn up at a morgue after being denied safe passage to Europe while alive.

Hardest story: Interviewing ISIS militants.

Advice for journalists who want to work overseas: First learn the history, then the culture and then the language. Spend time with locals even when it’s not for a story. Do not just hang out with expats!

Dream job: Breaking into four longform stories or so a year, alongside a substantial book project. Or, perhaps, to lead a reporting team in a world city.

Favorite quote: “Do the work. No matter how many followers you have, or people congratulating you on Twitter – what do you have to show for it? Your last byline doesn’t matter. What’s the next? Always have something better in the works.”
–David Carr

Most over-the-top assignment: Trying to hike up a mountain to England’s highest market town during a freak snowstorm to do a weather story.

Place you’re most eager to visit: Japan.

Most common mistake you’ve seen: Believing exaggerated accounts too easily.

Country you most want to return to: There is nowhere quite like the Bosphorus but perhaps more immediately the US to cover New York.

Twitter handle: @ceylanwrites