Journalism in Pakistan: Pintak advocates media independence
ISLAMABAD: At times, even US news outlets follow state narratives instead of digging for facts. This is particularly true for American outlets covering events such as the September 11 attacks and the Iraq War.
This was said by veteran American journalist Lawrence Pintak during an interactive session on Tuesday at the Express Media Group office in Islamabad.
Pintak, who is in Pakistan to help develop a curriculum for journalism and media students in the country, acknowledged that the profession faced extraordinary circumstances and pressures, compared to the US.
He said it was unfortunate that Muslim stereotypes were created and promulgated in the Western media. Pintak said his book, ‘Islam for Journalists’, as well as his online journalism course, ‘Covering Islam in America’, aim to address these incorrect notions.
He spoke of the importance of social media in shaping discourse in the media, but also lamented how certain fringe websites and blogs are able to drive the media agenda in countries such as the US. He said the opinions expressed by these often dubious sources had an “echo chamber effect”, making them part of the national debate. To a question, however, he cautioned against advocating online checks to control or restrict content on the web.
To a question regarding the future of print journalism, he said that the medium would probably phase out gradually in the US in the coming decade, shifting predominantly online.
Pintak said he believed local journalism will likely reinvent itself online, spawning newer forms of coverage such as community reporting.
He said the US initially had three major broadcasters, who provided the American public with the same set of facts, leading to a general consensus on events and allowing for a more impartial national discourse. Today, he said, various outlets provide a myriad of “factoids”, which cause a greater divide in opinions.
Touching on the importance of creating multi-skilled journalists, he said his curriculum in the US trains aspiring reporters in various media tools, including web, digital and editing, thus preparing them to prepare entire news segments, from reporting to final production.
Pintak is a member of the board of advisers for the Centre for Excellence in Journalism in Karachi, as well as an advisor on journalism in Pakistan for the US State Department.