Language supervisor, style book for media houses suggested -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Language supervisor, style book for media houses suggested

Shazia Hasan

KARACHI: Speakers on day two of the international ‘Media Agenda 2012’ conference discussed the medium of language and its usage, sources and their protection, and objectivity and the news media at the Arts Council here on Wednesday.

Speaking in the morning session about the medium of language and its usage, BBC Urdu’s senior broadcaster Raza Ali Abidi highlighted the need for a language supervisor and a style book at media houses. “Besides having a language supervisor and a style book for the staffers to follow, holding regular lectures and workshops for their guidance, too, isn’t a bad idea,” he said.

“The language used in headings also should be chosen with care,” he said while pointing out that it is sad that journalists don’t read much these days. “The concept of reading and benefiting from reference material to get acquainted with the latest trends in writing, etc., is a thing of the past for today’s journalists,” he lamented.

Prof Dr Shafey Kidwai of Aligarh Muslim University in India was of the opinion that the media started giving more importance to the spoken word. “They give preference to write the way you speak,” he said.

The following session about the importance of sources and their protection saw AFP Bureau Chief Hasan Mansoor explaining that sources for a reporter were like “petrol for a vehicle”. About how sources can work for a reporter, he said it could go both ways. “Rather than cultivating sources and using them to one’s advantage, a news reporter should be careful not to get exploited at the hands of the sources,” he said.

Another thing that the journalist mentioned was starting sensationalism in the form of breaking news. “Reporters are often given instructions by news channels to give first information even if it’s raw and not confirmed by more than one source.” He said that if the news was wrong, the channels would drop it quietly, but if it was correct, they had breaking news.

“If the electronic media has its defects, the newspaper is also not without its share of faults. There you have the practice of publishing press releases and news items based on a single source. When doing that you need to keep in mind that the source is human, too, and may have his or her own single-track view. The reporter when doing a report, should also consider the view of the opposing side,” he said.

Karachi Press Club President Tahir Hasan Khan spoke of the importance of keeping documentary evidence when doing scandalous reports.

“The reporter should understand the direction his story is going to take to be able to explain it to his editor and reader, too. The reporter should also be prepared for the consequences of his writings.”

Akbar Ali, a reporter of Geo News, spoke about the pressures put on electronic media reporters by their news directors. “They are in the habit of forcing reporters to say what another channel is airing even if it is not true,” he said.

Jawed Naqvi, Dawn’s Delhi correspondent, said that he felt as if journalists were like squatters. “The paper does not belong to us [the journalists’ community] but to the owners and we are fine working for them until we are allowed to do our work without interference,” he said. “There was a time when reporters just could not be pressured. They were considered unemployable subversive,” he added.

Associate editor of Herald Idrees Bakhtiar said that exposing the stories had diverse results so it was very important to protect sources. He also spoke of reporters inventing a source to give his own view or mention sources where common sense didn’t even require their need. “If you think that putting in ‘sources’ will make your story more credible, that’s not true.

“Another wrong use of sources is the use of the phrase ‘on the condition of anonymity’,” he said. “Well, of course your source is someone not authorised to say something but then the one authorised to talk to you is the PRO or media manager,” he announced.

The final session had the experts speaking on objective as well as subjective reporting. Dawn Editor Zaffar Abbas, Jang Editor Mudassar Mirza, Prof Nisar Ahmed Zuberi gave their points of view on the subjects.