Getting a licence for television station or radio channel has never been so easy in Pakistan. Same is the case with newspaper declarations. I know many people who are illiterate but they are either editors or publishers of small newspapers.
Considering the number of media enterprises in Pakistan, there should have been a healthy competition among them to produce better content. The competition is everything but healthy. Situation in the electronic media is more grim than the one in the print media.
Viewers’ ratings are a key to any channel’s success. The more viewer ratings mean more advertisements and an expensive airtime. Media barons see their channels as money minting machines. They force their employees, many of whom are media novices, to get better viewer ratings for the channel. Finding no other quick-fix to implement the employer’s desire, the producers and their assistants take refuge behind sensationalism.
Now a days an average television channel entertains more breaking news in a day than the number of clients a prostitute entertains in a poor industrial area. The breaking news range from the sighting of the moon to an official reaching his/her office. Meetings of various government agencies, which previously were unheard of, have been glamourised by the breaking news syndrome.
There are very few people in journalism in Pakistan who can be regarded as true journalists. What makes a journalist is a controversial question in media circles, where everyone consider himself or herself a journalist. Having discussed this question with many veteran journalists and after reading about the lives and works of some prominant journalists, I have short listed the qualities they possess.
A good journalist should have a strong command on the langauge. Strong command does not mean vocabulary from Shakespear’s plays or ancient history. A strong command on language, according to me, is achieved when a writer with his writing is able to access a large public sphere containing many social tiers. A strong command on language means the writer grabs the reader’s attention from the first word to the last word of the news. A good writer should be able to write one idea in many interesting forms.
The second quality a journalist should possess is a good observation. He should be able to differentiate between wrinkle, scowl and frown. An insight into human psychology is a must for aspring journalists.
Clarity of thought is the third quality a good journalists shoud have. A vague mind can’t clear other people’s thoughts.
No university has designed any course to polish the above three skills among its students. Reading, more reading and all sort of reading is the only way a person can improve his language, strengthen his observations and clear his thinking.
If human resource managers in media organisations, instead of checking the cleavages of employees, start recruiting people with these skills, things would turn much better.