Media talk: Journalists discuss future of news in Pakistan

150 journalists attended the event organised by the US Consulate General in Karachi

Our Correspondent July 24, 2015

KARACHI: Good stories are always well-read and well-received by the public, said the speakers at the panel discussion entitled 'Future of News' held at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) City Campus on Friday.

The event was organised by the Centre for Excellence in Journalism - a collaboration of US Consulate General in Karachi, the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) and IBA - at the Alumni Summit for the US-Pakistan Professional Partnership in Journalism.

The discussion was hosted by the ICFJ programmes vice-president Patrick Butler. The event was attended by 150 journalists from print and electronic media, Herald magazine editor Badar Alam, and senior producer Gibran Peshimam.

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Sharing his views about the future of news in Pakistan, Alam said that the journalists should pay attention to the elements of a news story. While explaining how the emergence of digital media has changed news today, he said, "Elements such as the message and the medium of that message are very important." He added that there are 70 news channels currently working in the country, which no one imagined would happen in the mid-90s.

While discussing the media's agenda-setting role and censorship, Alam said that the editors have always been under pressure. "From the 60s till 80s, Pakistan's journalists have been under pressure from the state," he claimed. "The pressure was external but it was imposed by the state."

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After 1993, some other factors arose that decided the media's news content, he said. "Factors such as marketing, non-state actors and international factors, such as ecological and financial matters, started deciding the content and the importance of a news story." Alam said that the main news agenda has always been set by the reader's feedback.

On the decline of print readership, Alam said that it is not only about reading newspapers but is about a habit of reading a newspaper. "Even in America, where people have more access to multimedia gadgets than in Pakistan, people still go to book shops to buy a newspaper copy."

Peshimam believed that a good story always makes its place and the good content has and will always survive. For a good story, production also matters but that does not mean that the role of journalists has decreased, he added.

Peshimam said that the future of storytelling and news is not different. He believes that it is still the same at it was 20 years ago.

He admitted that the Pakistan's media is urban centered.

Being a producer of a news show on Geo Tv, he said he tries to pick single stories from sectors, such as financial and international matters. "We always report the important issues of the day but it is true that we do not have audiences who are interested in knowing about the health facilities in Thar," he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2015. 

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