Is The Express Tribune a government mouthpiece?
On an average day, Tribune, Dawn and The News' Karachi pages all carried 80-90% news direct from officials' mouths.
Do you know what a PC-1 is? Or a summary? Or the facilitation of the upgradation of the basic health unit?
This is how our newspapers sound because this is the language bureaucrats and politicians use. And because our reporters are by and large getting their news stories from these people, they end up using the same dusty language. As a result, what the reader gets is 'employment opportunities' instead of jobs, 'concerned authorities' and 'authorities concerned'.
As a desk editor I have shouted and screamed, begged and pleaded with the sub-editors and reporters to write for the reader, in language that they use and understand. But the LERP, DCO, DDO, XEN, SHCBA, SCBA, TNSM keep invading the page with their cryptic symbolism.
I argue that no one has the time or energy to figure out such long-winded ohdas or titles. And no one cares for the 'high-level' meetings at CM House. I mean, have you ever heard of Qaim Ali Shah holding a low-level meeting? I’m tired of hearing of ministers taking 'strict notice' and ordering 'strict action'. Are they schoolteachers who will put us in a corner because we’re naughty children? Do I deserve a smack on the bottom and will an Additional Inspector General of Police, who is a PSP officer, respectfully administer it to my humbly accepting derrière?
The language dilemma persists largely because reporters have a propensity to only source their reports from the government. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the numbers from the Karachi city sections of Dawn, The News and The Express Tribune.
On October 28, Friday, I sat down to compare their stories. And before anyone tries to accuse me of bias, let me start with my own pages, 13, 14, 15 in The Express Tribune’s Karachi edition.
We had 13 stories (excluding briefs). Except for 3, all of them were entirely based on information provided by officials, government representatives or the police.
In Dawn's Karachi pages there were 20 stories. Except for 2 stories that were based on NGO experts, all of them were entirely based on what officials, government representatives, politicians and police said. (Additionally I noticed that in Dawn, with the exception of two stories, they do not use direct quotes at all, but entirely paraphrase. The Express Tribune and The News use more direct quotes).
In The News's Karachi pages there were 27 stories. Except for 5 stories, all of them relied on the same group of informants.
Information does flow top down – that is from government to the media to the people. But surely we should all be doing the kind of journalism that draws information from the people who are affected, the people who need to be better informed about the world around them, their cities, towns, schools.
What about the bottom-up reporting?