Tribute to a NZ media mentor: How Yasmine Ryan taught me how to write

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Tribute to a NZ media mentor: How Yasmine Ryan taught me how to write

Yasmine Ryan, an award-winning New Zealand journalist who died tragically on Thursday, was the first Western journalist to begin writing about the beginning of the Arab Spring in Tunisia in 2011. This video interview was with media commentator Gavin Ellis last month. Video: The Spinoff

By Murat Sofuoglu in Istanbul

I have no idea how to say goodbye to Yasmine Ryan. It’s been two days since she passed away here in Istanbul. My mind is flooded with memories of her and it’s incredibly hard to stop thinking about her.

I met Yasmine in Istanbul last December. She was new to the city, hoping to start another chapter of her career as a senior features editor at TRT World. She handpicked a team of reporters for the Magazine section and I happened to be one of them.

I had almost no experience in narrative writing. But as Yasmine came in to her element, I felt I was in safe hands.

A woman with a gentle soul and generous heart, Yasmine never hesitated from helping journalists like me. In the first month, I found myself struggling to craft a compact feature length article, even though over time I had developed a comprehensive understanding over many social and political issues.

She mentored me for almost a year. Though her editorial touch was tender, she was bold enough to test my abilities. If my story lacked a strong introduction, she would tell me straight, “Murat, you need to rewrite your introduction.”


If a story lacked coherent framing, she would ask me to report more until I felt confident enough to write about the subject.

She edited tirelessly, fact-checked stories and sent notes until she felt certain that the piece had all the essential details necessary for a strong feature.

Fixing errors
She never showed any discomfort while fixing errors in my drafts and often responded with refined questions and solutions as well. Even when pointing out flaws in the copy I felt like she was gently tapping my head, not taking a sledgehammer to my work, to teach me what was wrong with my writing.

When I wrote long articles, which sometimes crossed the 2500-word mark, she would put her left hand on her forehead and say “Oh my God!” But she was always quick to lift my mood with a smile.

“Okay, we’ll take care it,” she would say.

She never antagonised me or “killed” my piece.

When it came to editing a sentence, she never touched or altered my voice as a writer, which is a core part of any writer’s identity.

She was respectful toward peoples’ voices and identities. She was proud of her family history, and her Irish-Catholic roots. She often recounted the story of her great grandparents, who survived British brutalities during World War I.

She perceived the British Empire’s so-called assimilation policy as a tool to erase Irish identity. Perhaps that’s what informed her careful approach as an editor that preferred to give weight to the writer’s voice, and not to general elements of style.

Armed with facts
Yasmine encouraged us to improve, insisting that we write more, and to always be armed with facts. She taught me that there was no shame in getting it wrong, as long as we were ready to work towards making it right.

On some occasions, I felt I had a valid point in my argument, but would later realise I was wrong and she was right.

Now with the news of her death, I wish I could be wrong one more time.

More than making me a better writer, she has made me a better person.

I still find it hard to comrehend, or process, that she’s no more. We are not only deprived of her brilliant journalism but also of her generosity and selflessness.

To know she’s gone forever, feels like a life sentence. We should feel sorry for ourselves, not for her. The world is certainly not a better place without her.

I pray her great spirit enlightens us forever.

Rest in peace, Yasmine.

And please forgive us.

Murat Sofuoglu is a journalist with TRT World and tweets at @Readingavenue.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by

Journalist Yasmine Ryan’s death in Istanbul ‘fall’ shocks colleagues

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Headline: Journalist Yasmine Ryan’s death in Istanbul ‘fall’ shocks colleagues

Yasmine Ryan demonstrating her skills at work in Solomon Islands … she was devoted to human rights. Image: Jason Dorday/Scoop

Pacific Media Watch Newsdesk

A New Zealand journalist and associate of the Pacific Media Centre has been killed in a fall from a building in Istanbul, reports the Turkish-based news service TRT World.

Media industry sources have cited police as treating the death of Yasmine Ryan, 34, in a five-storey fall as “suspicious”.

Her death has shocked colleagues and friends around the world.

A colleague, Ashfaaq Carim, at TRT World said Ryan had left behind a “rich legacy of stories that have left a deep impact on people and journalists”.

“This morning, I woke up to the tragic news that a trusted friend, colleague, and fellow journalist, Yasmine Ryan, had passed away,” he wrote in a TRT opinio0n blog.

“I have been blessed to know Yasmine for more than eight years. Throughout she had been an epitome of courage,” he wrote.


“A selfless human. A fearless woman.”

Tragedy at friend’s house
The journalist was staying at a friend’s house when the tragedy happened, according to news reports.

“The pair had retired for the day and gone to sleep in separate rooms. The friend was awoken at 2.20pm by a noise,” said The New Zealand Herald.

“They discovered an open window and Ryan on the ground below.

RT World reported emergency services were called but declared her dead at the scene.

Police were now investigating the death.

A Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson said the ministry was aware of the death of a New Zealander in Istanbul and was providing consular assistance to the family.

Zaoui book
One of her colleagues in New Zealand, independent journalist Selwyn Manning, recalls her early work in a collaborative book,  I Almost Forgot About The Moon – about the disinformation campaign against refugee Algerian theologian Ahmed Zaoui.

“Her research and writing of various chapters in the book were so exact and thorough,” Manning said.

“Her passion for human rights shone through and led her, I believe, to pursue a career reporting in North Africa and the Middle East.

“Early on, when I was editor of Scoop, I assigned her to report in the Solomons when unrest became evident after some arson attacks in Honiara.

“We flew her and Jason Dorday up there to cover events. She immediately was in her element.”

Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie described Ryan as one of the most professional New Zealand journalists he had encountered working as a foreign correspondent.

He paid tribute to her Arab Spring reportage from Tunisia for Al Jazeera.

“Her reporting broke the mould and alerted the world to the forces of would-be change heralded by the Arab Spring, even if the early hopes dwindled in the end.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Article by