What constitutes good or bad journalism is a debate for some other time, but the bigger question here is: what essentially is journalism today? As a media graduate, I find it quite overwhelming and at times confusing how the news makers have become the consumers and vice versa. Although the innovation calls for greater interactivity, it puts a big question mark on the responsible and credible nature of journalism – especially in our country.
Before I proceed, I must tell that I am severely criticized for being critical of the local media and the practices of journalism in Pakistan. I acknowledge that our media is still in its infancy stage and would take more time to develop but I do think also that the initial years are very critical for anything to take on the right course. Ironically, such is not the case in Pakistan.
First of all, let’s talk about electronic media – the over expanding business reflecting our free society. From the current affairs programs to the re-enactments and essentially the news, there are serious flaws in relation to authenticity, objectivity and ethical practices of journalism. Taking on the example of PTI’s Azadi March, the opinion of the two big channels seems conflicted on the same issue. Does journalism in any way gives the news makers the authority to be pro or anti of a situation or even take it to personal level? I think there are more intellectual people to answer this one.
Now take a look at social media: the magic tool to bring you all the news, essentially rumors, today. With the interactivity and accessibility of social media, the role of journalists has expanded beyond the traditional means. Now, we have got the option not just to deliver news but also to communicate one’s thoughts and encourage public discourse and literacy. Not only journalist, but all the other users have got the option to have their say in bigger events in the country. But as much as this has delivered the news makers and people the option to spread the right word, it has become a propagating tool for the wrong and malicious content. The option for easy content generation has also paved the way for sensationalism which contradicts the very essence of journalism. Although it is easy to understand the naivety on the part of general public to believe everything they see and then share on social media; it is sinister for the media personnel to do the same. The very quality of ‘being skeptical‘ seems to be somewhat lost amongst the journalist, whether a freelancer or on-field, which put questioning the information on a later stage. I daily see updates on social media which are found to be not true but shared in greater numbers.
The default lies not only in the practice of journalism in our society but also in teaching journalism. Telling the theoretical perspective of the media is not enough in a content-driven environment today. There is a need to reinvent our perspective on journalism studies while incorporating the essentials of taking the lead in a changing environment. We must know that what journalism was a decade ago is not what it is today. The good and bad thing about journalism is: it is ever changing – but our academic strategies are still the same.
As affiliated with an academic institute of Media Studies and an enthusiast of journalism, I feel responsible to contribute to the development of this profession. Why couldn’t we take a more critical and analytical approach to teach the future generation the rights and wrongs of journalism, to not just be a voice but a distinctive one, to identify with greater journalism goal of public interest rather than corporate or personal interest. Yes we can, and it is high time we realize this too. Ours is not the only nation that has more in the name of ‘distracting-news-content‘ but we should now move towards better now than popularizing the cause of ‘Free (notorious) media‘. We can learn from Stony Brook University’s “News-Literacy” class and can apply similar models here. This might take time but would definitely initiate a process; a right in the right direction.