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.

Mahimmaher October 30, 2011
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?
WRITTEN BY:
Mahimmaher A journalist based in Karachi, Pakistan. She has worked as the city editor at The Express Tribune and Daily Times, and now writes long form investigative and explanatory pieces on Karachi’s civic and urban infrastructure with a focus on transport, public spaces and water.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.

COMMENTS (33)

imran sahil | 9 years ago | Reply i say it real journalism,becuase news is based on source,if the source is actual victimised person than its called complete news,i found the way and style of express tribune is deffrent from dawn, i think the policy of dawn is lying upon authorterian theory thats why they quote mostly authority as source,but express tribune qoutes victimised persons,its a good start but need more changes.
Sceptic | 9 years ago | Reply I liked your article, but yes it would have been better if the author wasn't actually the sub-editor from Express Tribune. I agree with you, top down reporting does take the objectivity out of journalism - which really is a sham of a concept. I read both papers, Dawn and Express. Not the News, I find the print quality quite horrid. Dawn has a very official air in its news, it is like the complete resource of everything going on, it seems to rely on substance more than style. Express Tribune has the whole style thing going for it, it looks good and makes you want to read it. IF we could combine the two....Because right now its as if DAWN is The Economist and Express Tribune is Cosmo
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