National: Squint, groan… I survived the vampire shift

Published: April 12, 2012

For years, I thought I was eternally condemned to the graveyard shift for journalists.

For years, I thought I was eternally condemned to the graveyard shift for journalists.

My primary mission during this blacker-than-night shift was to help put together the outer and national pages and monitor fresh news developments until the edition was put to bed.

In all my years in journalism, I worked the graveyard shift, except for my unsuccessful escapades at broadcast. My longest stint at The News, six-plus years, was a killer. Literally.

Think of six-plus years in a perennially understaffed newsroom where greying reticent copyeditors did nothing, but slice off streams of verbiage. A sombre, cheerless, lifeless newsroom – as if caught in a time warp. It sapped my energy, my zest for life. Still I never thought of jumping ship, not because there were no options. In fact, I became addicted to that life.

But then the turning-point came: Migraine – a severe one! My neurosurgeon advised me to de-stress and change my lifestyle. I said, “I can’t.” And came his blunt reply, “Then quit the job, or else it’ll get worse.”

Frightened at the prospect, I resigned and gratefully accepted a standing offer from DawnNews, and found some respite – an exhilarating, enlivening, and throbbing-with-life newsroom – in sharp contrast to my previous experience. And no graveyard shift, at least not for me.

I thought my future was broadcast journalism, that too at DawnNews. But despite oodles of enthusiasm, commitment and hard work, the channel couldn’t take off. Perhaps, a 24/7 news channel, catering to a microscopic Anglophone viewership wasn’t feasible after all.

Subsequently I accepted a lucrative offer from Samaa TV. It didn’t take me long to realise my mistake. My six-month stint at Samaa was, in one word, a nightmare.

Then one day I got a phone call – a call that landed me in print journalism again. I joined The Express Tribune while it was still in the embryonic stage. On my first day, what took me by surprise was a young, inexperienced team, though a couple of grey heads were there. Even the National Desk, the lead desk of a newspaper, the one that demands the most commitment and competence, was staffed by under-30s.

Frankly, I was sceptical. And I was wrong.

The team was young and inexperienced, but every member of it was energetic, enterprising and ambitious.

And The Express Tribune did take off. Today, ET is two years old. And in a short span, it has emerged as an iconoclast, shattering many myths, proving many critics wrong, setting new trends, and creating a niche for itself. It’s a waft of fresh air in Pakistan’s orthodox English journalism.

For me, working here is fun – more so, because there is no ‘graveyard shift’ at The Express Tribune. And my head feels so much better now.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2012.

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