Media is not a monster
When I tell people I worked on a political talk show they attack me!
It has become a custom to condemn the media. An unfair one if you ask me. I have worked for a news channel for almost three years now. Like any other institution, we have our flaws, but we have our strengths, mostly left unacknowledged. We have become connoisseurs of disparagement and misers when it comes to rewarding.
Thank god we have the media to keep tabs on politicians, bureaucrats, policymakers etc. There is almost no decision made in the Prime Minister house now without the media involved. Almost every decision that is made by the government comes down to how much attention the issue receives in the media.
I have seen the power of media first-hand. A few months ago, there was a collision between a school van and a train on a railway track. Eleven children lost their lives in this accident. The media made a lot of hue and cry over this issue because in the preceding months, it had highlighted the dilapidated conditions of the railway sector. Poor infrastructure and mismanagement of government funds leave thousands dead in fatal rail accidents every year and this was brought to the government’s notice. When this accident made news, the government promised financial compensation to the victims’ families. The media did not forget this promise and kept tabs on the families of the victims. On finding out that they hadn’t received the compensation; the issue was given extensive coverage, admonishing the government and the railway ministry who was not accepting responsibility. The government took notice again and within days the families received compensation. This is just one example. As I have worked in the media for more than two years, I can give various such examples which reinforce my belief of the power of media in Pakistan.
When I tell people I worked on a political talk show, they express their annoyance at seeing members of the national assembly squabbling on television. I don’t bother building up a defense because it’s true. To an extent. At times talk shows do end up becoming a platform for a blame game. However, every discussion cannot lead to a solution but at least it’s an attempt to get to one. These discussions aren’t just unnecessary yapping all the time. Is it just a waste of time to discuss sitting lawmakers with fake degrees? Or when a former chief secretary gets away with a hit and run case responsible for a retired colonel’s death and we talk about that, is it just a futile discussion? I don’t think so. So many crimes would go unnoticed if journalists wouldn’t bring up and hold people accountable.
Yes there are moments I haven’t been proud of, like the ludicrous coverage and air time given to Shoaib Malik and Sania Mirza. Yes it made me nauseated too. In fact most people in the newsroom were covering it half heartedly themselves. You think we are oblivious of those times when we are mocked at? No. But if you can ignore the comic Indian songs on news packages and can look at the larger picture, then one can appreciate the role that media plays between the state and society. We fill the gap between the government and the people. We highlight the concerns of the unprivileged and question what most people accept at face value. We don’t always attain our agendas, or those that masses expect from us, but at least we try.