November 21, 2019
Here we go again, and I'm going to indulge in an exercise that's borderline contentious, this despite being explicitly instructed not to do so. I was told quite explicitly that I was not to write anything at all about a 'certain individual' and that if I did I would not be allowed to write for JournalismPakistan.com ever again. But I'm going to go out on a limb anyway. Test the waters, as they say.
Okay, I'm not going to specifically write anything about the 'certain individual' who, I have since got to know through social media, friends, sources and a few media forums, has transferred his unmentionable, flabby, person to another continent to frolic there with gay abandon. Hope a lion jumps his sorry ass if he decides to go on a safari.
Therefore, I will stick to my promise to Messrs. Imran Naeem Ahmad and Stephen Manuel.
However, at no time ever did I promise not to write about that 'certain individual's' godfather and mentor, a person every bit as nefarious, devious and sneaky as the 'certain individual.' I must thank the social media for putting me on the right track, i.e. on the trail of this media 'mogul' and 'trend-setter' otherwise commonly known in the news media industry as Mamu.
I should not have been surprised to learn that Mamu, after 35 odd years in the business, has come out with an insider's guide to launching and running a TV channel in the digital age. And yet I was. Should have seen it coming.
Much as I hate to say it, it's something Pakistan's wayward, unorganized media sure can use.
Mamu undoubtedly has the experience and hands-on expertise to know what to do, but to envision or sit down and write a manual...not his style. This is undoubtedly the brainchild of his protege.
Left to Mamu, he'd rather sit back in his high-backed leather chair behind his shiny room-sized desk in his stunning office overlooking Media City, Dubai, and boss his staff a la Corleone with a bit of Bollywood swagger. That's him. That's his style. He'd rather be drinking some exotic juice, picking with deliberate nonchalance at leafy pseudo health infused salad while simultaneously admiring his looks in the screen of his desktop computer even as he runs his hand through his bronze-coffee dyed hair.
Of course, this office is a far cry from the creepy, ramshackle, crumbling, stinking premises of his first media venture at Bath Island in Karachi, where he and his team eked out scraps of business news for other domestic and foreign channels. That was a place that reeked of musty boards, cigarette butts, and dampness while mice and rats scurried across from one corner to the other with the gay abandon that the rat from Ratatouille would have been proud of.
But to be fair to him, and whether luck and deviousness have had something to do with it or not, this owner, part/owner of three or more TV channels, has carved a niche for himself. I would be ignoring the obvious if I denied he has not been successful or deserves his success.
I believe that Mamu is not a rotten person, just given to whims and frequently dictated to by his gigantic out-of-control ego. He can certainly turn on the charm offensive and has benefited from it in abundance. He can be generous. Yes, he is. And, when the mood takes over him, he can be pretty sweet to his staff.
The biggest problem with Mamu, however, is that when it comes to hiring people, and despite years of experience, he can be pretty naive. It's easy to pull the wool over his eyes, and some people certainly have, e.g. the ridiculously pompous, self-opinionated, woefully inexperienced four-foot-high director programs he hired for what was to be his flagship business channel from Karachi. That man led Mamu down the garden path while getting rid of anyone he perceived as a threat and filling the channel only with people that bowed and scraped to him and would not question his decisions or authority.
Sadly, Mamu fell hook line and sinker for it.
Mamu's protege, too, has managed over the years to forge an excellent partnership with his patron, frequently providing him with business ideas and running and supervising some of his ventures. Of course, such relationships are always contentious, and there have been fallouts, but nothing the two could not kiss and make up about.
One of Mamu's biggest problems is he is very susceptible to rumors and whispered complaints and office politics. In other words, kaan ka kaccha hai. Once an individual falls from grace, he will look straight through them like they don't exist. At such times he is ruthless, totally heartless. He doesn't even bother to verify the issue...terminates them in a blink without a heart beat's consideration as to their future or that of their family.
He undoes all his good work when he goes this route. There have been many who have fallen along the wayside like this.
And before I come back to his fat-headed protege, and continue to paint a semi-decent picture of Mamu, let me quickly say I admire what he's achieved, but I certainly don't admire the man. Among his list of glaring put-offs is the fact that he's an out and out sexist. As a woman, I hate him from the very core for the way he treats, behaves with and looks at, and upon women. For him they are more like objects or possessions rather than employees who are special and industrious in their way and bring with them professionalism and work ethics.
A friend of mine, who has since quit the news industry, once told me that Mamu looked her up and down with disdain, but still went on to hire her as a news anchor. Mamu was later heard complaining to a senior staff member that they needed to dig deeper and find more suitable candidates. "She will do for now..." he said, "even though she is a very ugly creature!"
Of another newscaster, he is quoted as saying: "She sounds like a man, looks like a man."
There are other things I have heard attributed to him that are just too crass for even me to delve into. I'm going to let those slide.
So given all that I know about him and of him, I wonder just how useful that guideline to launching a TV channel in the digital age is going to be. It is not what has been written, but that which has not. For every sentence written, we are going to make an effort and discern what is actually between the lines.
So until next time, enough venom for now.
Lots of love.
PS: Lion where are you?
The Nation, April 14, 2019
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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.