JournalismPakistan.com December 27, 2014
I do have a fervent wish and that is directed at my colleagues who plough the fourth estate, especially those who are privileged to work on the sports pages. I say this because not only are these pages the conduit between the world of sport and the fans but it is the most read part of a paper. So, please, pretty please, make that extra effort. Always give the time, day, place and all other details of any sporting event you cover. And why have I chosen to take up this off-field issue?
I have a newspaper clipping from last week that carries a three column story with a bold headline which refers to a thrilling semi-final match and absolutely fails to identify what game we are talking about. How can you write seven hundred words and not tell the reader whether it is lacrosse, squash, netball or tennis?
Anybody doesn’t believe me you are welcome to a scanned copy of this editorial sports quiz. So there I am sipping a cup of tea and trying to guess the game. It cannot be soccer or hockey because the scores are too high. Could it be netball? Maybe, but not many names are mentioned so perhaps the tight score-line suggests that it could be handball or table tennis.
Big clue: there are sets involved. Which means squash could also get a look in. There is a picture of an unknown player with his name under it and a caption praising the grit in his eye but not a clue about the discipline. And no background image to pin down the ground or court. I am guessing it could be TT, squash or even badminton. I do pick one slim clue. There are ‘deft strokes’ by one of the players. So my shortlist is okay unless I am ‘swimming’ in murky waters.
The lean towards mystery writing doesn’t stop here. You are then told that the third Test starting in Melbourne next week is a chance for India to bounce back against the Aussies. Fine, I am all for bouncing back but a week has seven days so what stops the writer from saying Dec 26th or Boxing Day. Try Thursday mate and I’ll buy it. Tell you what. No one makes the effort. If it is in the agency copy, then lucky reader. If not, go guess which day this match is on because no one is going to go that extra step and tell you the exact date. This is just a random example. Half the reports in the sports section cheerfully ignore sharing information of the helpful sort. Like timings. Why are they so shy about telling you what time the game starts? You get it once in a way but otherwise you are at a complete loss. There was a report the other day about an Indian soccer league billed as a ‘nail-biting play-off’ and it steadfastly refused to tell you what time you could start on your nails.
Yes, I know we can go to a search engine but that’s not the point. You are sitting here in one of the GCC countries and you have a GCC newspaper in English and it is deigned to tell you that the big game will start at 1400 hours GMT. So, now the average reader has to do the math and not all of us are that smart. Hasn’t anyone heard of local time?
You go anywhere in the world the first thing that is highlighted is the TV channel that is telecasting the game. Giving that vital piece of information on the sports pages is just not a habit in our neck of the woods. And apart from cricket and a smattering of soccer the other games usually get short shrift. A perfect example was the recently concluded World Hockey Championship. I tracked the streaming through a friend of mine who was seconded to the tournament. There was no other way of finding out when India was playing Pakistan in the match of the year.
Of course, stop moaning, just fall back on good old search engines.
(The writer is a Senior Editorial Advisor of Khaleej Times and the paper’s former Editor. He has also been the Editor of Gulf News, Gulf Today, Emirates Today and Bahrain Tribune)
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