Concept Paper for Business Policy Roundtable on Business and Economic Journalism in Pakistan -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Concept Paper for Business Policy Roundtable on Business and Economic Journalism in Pakistan

With an average economic growth of 7% per annum during the last four years, Pakistan has become one of the fastest growing economies in Asia. The country’s growing economy is supported by higher levels of investment in industry, agriculture and services sectors.

PakistanÂ’s current emphasis on economic liberalization and privatization requires efforts to expand the scope and quality of information available to both decision makers and the public. The media have the responsibility, as well as the opportunity, to provide their audiences with objective, accurate and timely information as well as critical analysis of economic trends and events. As a result, there is a growing demand for journalists with knowledge in economics and finance to correctly interpret and present economic information and its implications on people’s lives.

Although there has been a marked improvement in economic reporting over the past two decades, economic and financial reporting, especially in print media, is still generally restricted to the reporting of events without providing background and analysis of their implications on Pakistan’s economy. Media have failed to report economic news in ways that could significantly advance public knowledge of economic processes.

Business jargons and buzzwords are regularly used in news reports without explaining the context and meaning of such words, thus alienating ordinary readers and only catering to those who are already involved in business and finance.

To be able to accurately interpret an economic event or trend and its implication on the society, journalists should have a clear understanding of economics and financial concepts. However, many business reporters today lack the understanding of economic fundamentals, such as interest rate, exchange rate and inflation.

Although, a quarter of Pakistan’s economy depends on agriculture, media in Pakistan have a strong urban bias and have ignored rural issues and agriculture. Media should develop ways of adequately covering economic activity and trends in rural areas.

Business journalists need to be aware of human and other information resources available in government, business enterprises and industrial associations. In order to make effective use of these resources, journalists need to understand the structures and functions of stakeholders who are involved in economics and financial activities. Journalists should be able to use access to information laws and regulations in order to promote transparency and to hold the government accountable.

MEDIA

How can media lobby government and business enterprises to release accurate information in timely manner?

What steps should media take to improve knowledge and skills of journalists to interpret, analyze and present economic data?

What steps do media need to take to communicate economic information to ordinary people and not just to business and economic professionals?

What kind of training programmes should be initiated by media training organizations on economic journalism?

What is the scope of in-house training in economic journalists by newspapers and television channels?

What steps can the media take to cover agro based economic news emanating from rural areas?

ACADEMICS

How can academic institutions teach economics and financial reporting to the students of mass communication and develop writing skills of students of business, finance and economics?

What steps can academicians take towards helping to improve business journalists’ economic knowledge and skills to interpret economic data?

What steps should they take to lobby the government to be transparent and accountable in providing economic information to the public?

How can academic institutions monitor the performance of media in terms of economic and finance reporting?

How can academic institutions better project their research findings to the public through the media?

How can trade associations work with mass communications departments and media training institutions to train young journalist in economic and business journalism?

Business enterprises and trade associations.

What contributions can business enterprises and associations make to improve media coverage of financial market?

How can business houses and associations develop their capacities to work effectively with the media?

What steps are required by trade and industry associations to become more open with information relating to their industries?

RECOMMENDATION

On July 18, 2006, a focus group session with representatives of the five key stakeholders was organized to identify issues related to economic and financial journalism in Pakistan.

On September 14, 2006, Pakistan Press Foundation and CIPE organized a Business Policy Roundtable on Economic Journalism in Pakistan with eminent personalities representing five main stakeholders in economic and financial information. The objective of the round table discussion was to review current status of business media in Pakistan and discuss ways for improving its capacities for better reporting of business and economic trends and activities.

The following were the additional recommendations made by participants of the round table discussion.

1.Government – Authoritative sources of business and economic information

Detailed analysis has to be carried out by stakeholders to point out omissions/errors by government in the reported statistics.

2.Business enterprises, business associations– End users and also providers of such information

Editors and journalists should make the full use of trainings and workshops for capacity building of economic journalists.

Train only those who are interested in economic journalism and not students of mass communication.

Trade associations should invest in research and interface with media on a regular basis.

Business houses and associations should develop their capacities to work effectively with the media.

Agriculture sector should be considered as a separate and major stakeholder.

3.Media— Disseminators of information to readers and viewers and promoters of economic transparency

Media experts should impart trainings to the young journalists.

Steps should be taken by media to improve knowledge and skills of journalists to interpret, analyze and present economic data.

Media needs to take steps to communicate economic information to ordinary people and not just to business and economic professionals.

Government should not influence economic reporting rather act only as information provider.

Media should significantly follow-up significant economic stories.

Code of ethics should be developed on reporting standards for owners of media organizations.

Media owners should be considered as separate stakeholders.

Refresher courses for all levels of economic reporters should be introduced.

Businesses should appreciate that media can help them in policy advocacy.

Both sides of the stories should be highlighted while reporting disputed issues.

Focus on regional and particularly Urdu Economic Journalism is necessary.

Job security for journalists is necessary.

4.ACADEMICIANS — Providers of well educated and trained persons to meet the need for economic journalism

Economics should be taught in the secondary school level so as to strengthen the foundation.

Students of Mass Communications should be given knowledge of applied economics issues.

5.GENERAL PUBLIC— End users of the information produced·Greater use of electronic media to put out government’s economic announcements/notices.

Print media should analyze and highlight implications of any economic/financial announcement by government.

Well remunerated economic journalism careers should be introduced.

To be able to accurately interpret an economic event or trend and its implication on the society, journalists should have a clear understanding of economics and financial concepts. However, many business reporters today lack the understanding of economic fundamentals, such as interest rate, exchange rate and inflation. Although, a quarter of Pakistan’s economy depends on agriculture, media in Pakistan have a strong urban bias and have ignored rural issues and agriculture. Media should develop ways of adequately covering economic activity and trends in rural areas.