September 20, 2019
Z. B. Saigol
I have tried in vain to convince my good friends Imran Naeem and Stephen Manuel to quietly discontinue JournalismPakistan.com.
My argument is they are swimming against the tide; that Pakistan’s media industry has lost its integrity and is beyond the point of no return. I have put forth the observation that whatever JournalismPakistan.com publishes will not make an iota of difference in the current character and nature of the media.
I tried to suggest that this is a new era with a new-fangled media and that nobody cares two hoots as to what constitutes good journalism. It’s now a cutthroat business plain and simple with only one goal, i.e., be competitive as hell. In other words, get to the top of the ratings no matter what the cost. Sell as much as you can.
Both my friends think I know squat about anything anymore but, of course, that is a matter of opinion. They counter my contentions with gentlemanly patience and forbearance while spouting endless statistics and tons of testimonials.
They insist I’m wrong and that there are still individuals within the media industry capable of steering their networks or publishing houses in the right direction and that they do so even as I speak. But before delving into that, I think there are a few things you need to know.
I stopped writing for JournalismPakistan over three years ago quite convinced that it would not see out its tenth anniversary and, therefore, my role as a commentator/columnist for the website was on the verge of extinction. Why sink with a sinking ship?
A week ago, Imran asked me if I would care to contribute to that occasion which I was told, quite tongue in cheek is next month. At first, I refused outright, but a few hours later, I started having second thoughts. Finally, and much to my surprise, I realized I missed writing for my friends and colleagues at JournalismPakistan.
I said I would think of something to write. Stephen told me quite plainly, I would have to do better than that. So, I struggled for a while to think of a relevant topic. Kashmir came to mind then everybody was writing about it, and therefore it would be mostly lost in the outpourings.
After that, I took to Google and entered keywords such as media, Pakistan, journalism, and freedom of press, hoping I would be able to latch on to something worthwhile, but there was nothing that I was not already aware of.
Half an hour later, still nothing, nope, nada! And then it suddenly dawned on me that the two guys I was struggling so hard to please were all about old school media integrity. I could not let them down.
So, I smoked a cigar, drank some coffee, and stared across my antique typewriter at the spell-binding vistas that is old Lahore and began to marshal my thoughts. Hmmm…
What exactly is integrity, and what about it? Does it really matter in today’s cutthroat world of journalism?
I ask this because from where I stand, most publications and news networks couldn’t care a rat’s ass about what they churn out as long as it is read or seen and keeps the money rolling in.
If it’s the print media, then the newspapers and magazines are chockful of unsubstantiated, vague and meaningless content, i.e. when it's not racy, cheap, thrill-seeking stuff.
It’s almost as if the authors/writers get a kick out of promoting uncertainty by painting a dire picture of the country, its economic situation, and its dismal global standing, while frequently relying on sketchy statistics and propping up their reports with quotes from unnamed and unverifiable sources.
Bad journalism that lacks even a sniff of integrity.
No thought is given to the outcome and consequences of such writing. This is the sum total of the work done by so-called journalists promoting the agenda of unscrupulous borderline politicians, bureaucrats, wealthy businesspeople and dubious public figures.
There are also scribes who not only flirt dangerously with the agenda or ideology of known anti-state actors and militant outfits but promote it shamelessly and vigorously with little regards for human or fundamental rights or the impact that their actions have of the image of the country and its people on the world stage.
I do not even wish to start on the ‘lafafa group’ lest I get distracted. It has to be said, however, that these guys are not a figment of anyone’s imagination. They exist. In fact some of them flaunt their existence.
We also have a bunch of guys who know how to milk the system and those that run it for personal financial benefit, foreign junkets, and of course, plots of land in prime commercial and residential sectors.
The list can continue ad infinitum.
The entire point of this rant being that with all these other interests, do these individuals even for a second consider the implications and impact of their actions and the damage caused?
Can they not entertain the concept of remaining honest and objective in carrying out their job?
The contradictions are yawning, unbridgeable divides.
These are the people currently calling themselves journalists and members of the media.
Journalism is an honorable profession and requires unquestionable diligence, awareness, conscience, and hard work and integrity.
But the way things currently stand, one needs to look hard to even be aware that such a thing exists. In fact, it’s all but gone.
PS. I’m delighted to be back. I have promised to write a column every fourth week. And yes, I will write something for JournalismPakistan’s 10th anniversary.
The Express Tribune, November 9, 2016
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