The geography of news

Published: April 21, 2012
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The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at 
http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

With its incidents of terrorism dominating the airwaves, Karachi probably is considered the most dangerous part of the world’s most dangerous country. It may be true but it is definitely not the whole truth. Any news originating in Karachi trumps news originating in any other part of the country because Karachi is at the centre of the journalism business and other peripheral areas just do not get similar airtime. A recent study by Intermedia Pakistan on “How Pakistani Media reports terrorism-related conflict”, reveals that the geography of a news item is a very important determinant in its importance and placement.

The study came up with some very interesting observations. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Fata, Balochistan and Sindh seem to be suffering almost daily from incidents of terror. While the print media is giving due coverage to all regions, the priority and non-priority areas are quite obvious in electronic media reporting.

According to the study, Sindh remains a priority area for TV channels. One of the reasons that Sindh is regularly featured with respect to terrorism could be the fact that terrorism incidents in Sindh, specifically Karachi, are usually linked to political upheaval. The fact that the head offices of most news channels with a team of skilled reporters happen to be in Karachi, also helps in detailed reporting of many aspects of the incidents, something which is not possible in remote areas. On the other hand, news about Fata and K-P seems to be relatively underplayed on TV.

The study reports a total of 119 incidents of terrorism in Sindh between January and March 2012. On TV, the region seems to be a priority with 56 stories aired in the monitored bulletins. Balochistan was mentioned as a terrorism target as many as 123 times during the same period but the number of related news items about the province was only 15.

However, it is not only the number of items about Sindh that makes this region a priority area. A look at the placement and significance of news items from here confirms this trend. Television channels give priority to certain news items by putting them ahead in news bulletins; news generated in Sindh is given more priority in prime time bulletins compared with news generated in Balochistan.

Balochistan seems largely under-reported on the electronic media. News from Balochistan makes only nine per cent of news on the nine o’clock bulletin. The whole world knows how bad the situation is in Balochistan and that incidents of terrorism occur every day, yet the province only gets about 10 per cent of the priority time in television news bulletins. The print media has been more responsible regarding this and 28 per cent of priority items that appear on the front page of newspapers are from Balochistan.

News is a serious business and reporting terrorism is a very sensitive matter. Many reporters have lost their lives while reporting from the conflict zones of Balochistan and Fata because militants felt that they were not given enough coverage. If news reporting continues to be about the urban centre, not only will we not know what is truly happening in the areas of our news periphery, but it may also trigger misguided policies at the state level.

The detailed report is available online at Intermedia’s website www.intermedia.org.pk

Published in The Express Tribune, April 21st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (5)

  • Indus
    Apr 21, 2012 - 1:25AM

    There is no fair reporting for other areas and issues of Sindh except Karachi.. reason is very simple: the biggest gangster and mafia party of Karachi controls media houses through violence, threats and some times killing Journalists. Wali babar shaheed was one such Journalist who lost his life during his duty. Did Media do any thing serious to bring killers of Wali babr to books? All are frightened of that urban terrorist group. If I write that party’s name, it’s for sure that this comment wont be passing moderation. Because there are also many journalists toeing their line and in nexus with them. Shame on yellow Journalism.

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  • usmani
    Apr 21, 2012 - 3:31PM

    You are absolutely right. Sindh and particularly Karachi get the major chunk of the news Items.It is more true that Baluchistan get the least attention of our electronic media. Reason could be several –Dearth of Urdu speaking journalist in the remote areas of Baluchistan,threat of life to the journalist from the militant nationalist groups.

    Even less reported area as compared to baluchistan is FATA.

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  • Noble Tufail
    Apr 21, 2012 - 3:42PM

    A good distribution analysis, however i was expecting more on the impact and perhapes some recomendations .. but article ended.

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  • Apr 21, 2012 - 4:07PM

    i agree with my brother [email protected]:

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  • qami
    Apr 21, 2012 - 6:18PM

    i am totally agree with my brother above mentioned views,yesterday a journalist of dawn news paper magazine head editor murtaza razvi killed he was badly tortured before death.even and although our electronic media didnt give a proper coverage to his assasination. why only sindh specially karachi why not other parts of country.punjab have a worst law and oder situation specially in rural areas aswel as in urban robberies and snatching at high level.

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