October 23, 2019
It was ten years ago, and yet it seems like just the other day that Imran Naeem Ahmad and I were excitedly going over the outlines of our hurriedly conceived, but still much in the air, project...JournalismPakistan.com.
It would be an understatement to say that, at best, the project was vague. There were 100 things we were unsure about or did not know. It was also a time that both of us were trying very hard not to step on each other's toes — this despite years of professional interaction and friendship.
Yet, we were able to agree on the name — my input — and the general design and outlook that Imran apparently was very excited about and had already formulated. I was more excited about content. A lot of the time though, when Imran spoke about the technicalities and mapping out of the website, I had no clue what he was talking about.
At the time, both of us were employed by a USAID project and had to make time to discuss our half-baked endeavor. However, slowly but surely JournalismPakistan.com began to take shape.
The web designer said it was going to cost us Rs.60,000. For what was a pet project with no monetary payback envisioned, this amount was a huge indulgence. But we were so far down the road that it was impossible to back down.
When we first got a look at a basic version of a working website, we were thrilled to bits. It was another three weeks though before our tech guy informed us that JournalismPakistan.com was finally functional.
That should have been good news, but we were nervous as hell. We'd spent the money. The website was now a reality ready to put out in the world. But doubts began to creep in. Who would read our content? Would there be anybody reading it at all? Would we be able to place fresh content every day? Where would it originate from?
All very valid questions.
Furthermore, when we spoke with our media friends and colleagues we met with unexpected cynicism, negativity, and lack of interest.
We were not swayed. But we were not ready either.
A week after we had been informed our website was ready to go forward, we had still not agreed upon a launch date. Here, once again, Imran and I were not in agreement. He wanted a quiet launch, and I wanted it to be a formal, full-blown affair. I wanted the world to know that JP had arrived.
In the end, necessity and opportunity decided for us. I was in Karachi on an official assignment when Imran called from Islamabad and said, "Today is the day. It's now or never. We're launching today."
I was stunned. "How?" I countered, "Do we have any material to place on the website."
"None yet," he said, "But by tonight, we will."
"Oh," I said, "And how is that?"
"You're going to write it," he said.
And that was that. I scrambled through my visits to all the leading newspaper and television networks in Karachi as quickly as possible, grabbed a couple of burgers from the nearest fast food outlet, and hunkered down on my hotel bed to write content for the first JP page.
I wracked my brains for ideas. Nothing came to mind immediately, and that was a surprise. I always have a few story ideas. Then I got lucky. I got a call from a friend in Aaj TV, and during my course of conversation with him, he offered up some mouth-watering stats on television ratings. I told him I was going to use the info he had just provided. He said it would only get him sacked. I convinced him nobody would ever know where the stats came from. He finally agreed and emailed me three pages of mouth-watering stats.
It took me half an hour to write the first report ever for JP!
Then I sat down and wrote a story I had been playing around with for weeks. It was about the media, and it seemed perfect for the moment. Two down. And then everything started coming together. Imran came up with two reasonably newsworthy reports; I searched the net for more material and came up with another story. And finally, we got a story from a media person who did not want to be named. He gave us a 'masala' story and danged if we did not have enough for our very first page.
That was October 24th, 2009.
We were very proud of our efforts and hoped for immediate recognition; it never came. Nobody said "Well done," or "Shabaash." There was no encouragement. No acknowledgment.
So disappointing. So disheartening.
It was back to Earth with a thump!!
By the end of the week, we had a grand following of seven people...all close friends or family. Discouraged as we were, we were also adamant. We had started something, and we were going to finish it.
Ten years later, by the grace of God, we are the undisputed No.1 media website in Pakistan with over 90,000 followers, 25,000 registered users and nearly 10,000 Twitter followers. We have people check in on us from 82 countries.
Most satisfying to us, however, is the fact that we are frequently referred to and quoted by top journalists and media personnel as being the fairest media website with a reputation for not taking sides, providing equal coverage, factual coverage, and being diverse and a respected source of information.
We are truly thankful to all those that helped us get where we are. We could not have done it without you.
The last ten years have also seen JournalismPakistan.com go through well thought out and deliberate changes. The website has been redesigned three times. The logo too has changed as has the banner. We have introduced new columns and features, all of which have been well received. Our Stats Don't Lie, Hall of Fame, Shahtoon and Best of JP continue to be a big hit. We also have regular columnists like former Khaleej Times Editor Bikram Vohra and Z.B. Saigol writing for us on almost a weekly basis. Blunder Thunder continues to evoke plenty of heated response and interest.
Most recently, our collaboration with CRS resulted in a stunning study 'Surviving the Story' which highlights the dire economic situation of the families of slain journalists displaced due to security threats. The accompanying documentary was also well received.
This is in addition to various seminars and courses JP has conducted for the growth of media personnel in their different specialties.
The last ten years have indeed been exciting as for almost that entire duration I have been based in the United States while Imran literally has run the show from Islamabad.
There have been times, and even now, when there are communication gaps. We each have other commitments and our families to take care of. We had also had to put up with attempts to shut us down, through computer-generated viruses meant to hijack the website as well as other means, especially when we first started. There have even been threats.
But then Imran and I are made of sterner stuff. We've been through a lot and can do so again whenever tested.
JP was here yesterday. It is here today and will be here tomorrow.
Thanks once again for being with us and having our backs. Your sincerity, encouragement, and steadfastness has spurred us on to better and bigger things and motivated us to be better and do better.
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A study conducted by JournalismPakistan.com and Communications Research Strategies on the economic situation of slain journalists' families and journalists displaced due to security threats.