“What are the slugs firming today,” was the first text message I received from the city editor a day after I joined The Express Tribune in March 2010. I had no idea what a ‘slug’ was as I had been working in an evening, vernacular newspaper. Not once, in my seven years of working at the newspaper, had anyone asked me for ‘slugs’. I sought help from a colleague who informed me that a slug is a short name given to an article that is in production.
Five years later, slugs have become so important in my life that my little daughter insists on making the slugsheet every morning.
The decision to join The Express Tribune was an easy one as the paper promised to be different from other newspapers. There was a conscious decision to focus on exclusive stories and not routine events and press releases. This formula may have worked for sometime but the paper has had to rethink its original beliefs due to multiple reasons.
During my time at the evening newspaper, my colleagues would make fun of this idea of exclusive stories. “Jungle mein morr nacha kisne dekha,” they would say, telling me that no one will read such stories. I am glad the stories we did proved them wrong. One of the stories I did in my early days at Tribune caused a security agency spokesperson to call me again and again to not mention that the agency was demolishing a fisherman’s graveyard and replacing it with a training centre. When the story appeared in The Express Tribune, the electronic media and other newspapers followed up on it and, eventually, the graveyard was saved.
More recently, the Chief Justice of Pakistan took suo motu notice of my story on a pre-partition Ladies Club in Larkana where the land mafia had encroached on shops. Soon after the story was published, the encroached shops were sealed.
It was a particularly proud moment for me when the World Veteran Federation approached our office in response to my story ‘Bloody memories: Dead man walking’, which focused on an 88-year-old World War II veteran who was compelled to live in destitution near a storm-water drain as the government had stopped paying his pension. During the Supreme Court hearings on Karachi law and order, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry took notice of my story on land records. “Have you read this story that appeared in The Express Tribune?” he asked the city commissioner.
There are, however, some times when the stories are not fit to print. Some investigative pieces on land encroachment and missing persons of Sindh are unable to find space. After I met nationalist Aakash Mallah, a few years after his confinement, I wrote about his terrifying experiences but that story never made it.
To the people who advised against joining The Express Tribune, I have only a few words to share. “I was a gumnaam sipahi [unknown soldier] in the field of journalism. After working at The Express Tribune, I have become a badnaam sipahi [notorious soldier].”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2015.
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