The Art of Storytelling: Local reporters become lazy, outsiders do objective reporting: Mohammed Hanif

He lauds how foreign reporters produce great journalistic writing in our part of the world.



Sometimes, local reporters become lazy while outsiders do authentic, objective reporting, said novelist, playwright and radio presenter Mohammed Hanif.

He was speaking at a session, titled ‘The Art of Storytelling’, on the first day of the two-day Caravanserai — Kabul in Karachi festival at the Beach Luxury hotel on Saturday.

Commenting on the authenticity of reporting, he said that great journalistic writings are mainly from foreign contributors in our part of the world and similar is the case when we send a Karachi-based reporter to Gwadar and he comes back with a brilliant story.

Blogger, journalist and writer Ahmer Naqvi, who was the moderator at the session, asked a question about bias playing a role during coverage for a foreign paper and the level of authenticity of such a story. “Journalism should always be authentic, otherwise you get fired,” said freelance journalist, social commentator and novelist Saba Imtiaz. “Locals writing for foreign newspapers is a great responsibility.”

A Kabul-based Los Angeles Times correspondent, Ali Latifi, said that we are able to report for countries we are from, where there is a limited but active social scene.

Answering Naqvi’s question about the difficulty in finding characters in a story, Imtiaz said that she always struggled with finding characters, adding that sometimes you find your character at the end of the story. However, she said, readers are interested in character-driven stories. Hanif commented that good characters can be found when the writer goes out of her/his comfort zone.

On the question of objectivity in the write-ups, Imtiaz said that finding the peg of your story is a real struggle. Hanif remarked that the institution of editing is weakening, as earlier editors used to go line-by-line and questioned you on that. According to Imtiaz, to write an interesting story, we should add some colour to it and make it more exciting. She further added that the pressure is mostly on editors to make the stories entertaining.

On a question about how he feels when writing on major incidents that happen in Pakistan, Hanif said that it feels depressing and you feel nothing when you are making a living out of the miseries of your people.

While differentiating between journalistic writing and writing a piece of fiction, Hanif said when you write a book, it leaves a lasting impression on the readers whereas journalistic writing stays in the reader’s mind for just a day or two.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2016.


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