The question that most people in the newspaper industry ask, or should ask, is why would someone want to read your newspaper if they have already seen the news on television one day before. In this age of breaking news and popular talk shows, which inform and entertain in equal measure, how can the newspaper remain relevant?
This was the challenge with which we started The Express Tribune. It was not meant to be just another English language newspaper by a group that wanted to complete its bouquet of news outlets – but one that would engage the growing number of Pakistanis who want a relevant and responsible newspaper.
And today, that continues to remain a challenge. At a time of corporatisation and shrinking newspaper revenues in the West, and the boom in regional and local language papers in countries as diverse as India and China, one wonders what is the best way to move forward in a limited market such as Pakistan.
Current English language readership numbers are depressing and the advertisement pie is getting smaller due to the country’s economic downturn on the one hand and the proliferation of media outlets on the other.
It is an uphill road for an English language newspaper in Pakistan.
But one year in print suggests that there are unlimited possibilities.
For one, it is a myth that the Pakistani English language reader is in the decline. Most have been forced to stop reading dailies not just because of rising prices but more so because of boring and irrelevant content and the inability of most papers to move with new trends.
Moving ahead, one challenge for us is to remain relevant. We want people to read us not only because of our pretty face but also because of the quality of our content.
Producing content of that standard requires being mindful of what is happening around us. At a time of intolerance, we continue to promote liberal and progressive values. But we also listen to the opinion of all sides and give a platform for enlightened debate. We pursue an inclusive approach and are mindful that this is the best way forward.
We will also have to remain ahead in terms of technology. Social media is playing a vital role in news dissemination. Technology and new media can help us generate more content and inform a larger audience if we move with it.
Our understanding of the need of our audience and our readers needs to be reviewed. Our readers today want to be more involved in the media that they follow. No more is it a one-way channel of communication.
Typecasts are being broken.
In some ways, the role of agenda-setting that was once the purview of the media is now changing. In an age when more news is disseminated through the mobile phone than through newspapers, certain fundamental changes are taking place in how news is consumed and by whom.
What is not changing, however, is the need to report clearly and accurately and without bias or favour. In many respects, this is our biggest challenge as we move ahead.
State censorship has been replaced by self censorship. Intolerance has put the lives of journalists at risk time and again. The weakening of the state has also put greater pressure on the media as it informs and educates.
As journalists, this remains our biggest struggle. Amidst all this, we at The Express Tribune will strive to do our utmost to uphold the greater values that we all believe in.
And that is our promise for the future.
The writer is Editor, The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2011.
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