Renowned senior journalist, Talat Hussain, a well known columnist and news anchor, has been witness to the ups and downs of Pakistan’s media for some time now.
Speaking on ethical journalism, he shares his views with The Express Tribune based on his own experiences in the industry.
Ethics to Talat Hussain means being faithful to the fact, getting the other side of the story and paying attention to the story’s context. He says that ethics or absence of ethics is a problem and a challenge because primarily, people don’t know what ethics is all about.
“If your professionalism has a certain question mark, a weak point or a weak link in it, then you’re likely to be perceived as an unethical journalist,” says Hussain.
Hussain thinks that there has become a tendency for reporters and media persons to believe that they are the story, so they try to reflect stories through their own person.
Ethical journalism versus ratings
“I think ratings are overrated” is the first thing Hussain has to say on the topic. He believes that if you are professionally sound and if you are reflecting people’s concerns and voices, you don’t need to have so called rating-getting faces.
“I personally have not done a one-on-one interview with Sheikh Rasheed. Don’t intend to do that. I have not interviewed Prime Minister Gilani for two years. Want to do it, wouldn’t get the interview,” says Hussain.
“President Zardari doesn’t give us interviews. MQM is conspicuous by their absence as far as my programs are concerned. But frankly my ratings as it were have not been affected.”
Journalists and opinions
Hussain believes that a journalist’s opinion should be reflected through the narrative of facts. He says that a reporter needs to stick to facts; not an anchor person. He considers an anchor person to be an equivalent of a column writer who needs to bring different perspectives to the table.
He believes that reporters need to keep their opinions out but if they do want to give their opinion, they should do so by calling it as such. Mixing up one’s opinion with the “illusion of giving facts” is something Hussain thinks is unfair.
Print versus TV
Hussain feels that television is a greater challenge as it is harder to maintain control over the tongue than it is to maintain control over the pen, but he believes that this is not an excuse for unethical journalism.
“I need to have both sides of the story, I need to have correct facts, and I need to be fair to all chairs of opinion.”
State of local media
Refusing to take any names, Hussain says that the state of local media is everyone’s fault and that everyone is to be blamed.
In particular, he blames the owners of media channels, saying that they need to maintain minimum standards of professional journalism in their companies as they would do with their businesses.
“This is an industry which has unfortunately not been corporatized and professionalized at all,” believes Hussain. “The blame for that really rests with the owners.”
Future of journalism
Talking about whether unethical journalism will continue to prosper, Hussain believes it is not likely. He thinks that viewers are smart and do not respond kindly to “agenda-driven, propaganda-based” journalism.
He says that viewers rate the media not in terms of popularity but in terms of credibility and it is obvious what happens when a journalist loses their credibility.
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