When journalists become ‘Unknown People’
My biggest high as a journalist is my byline. Having been a journalist for a fairly long time, the excitement has not lessened.
The day I know a story of mine will be published there is a wave of anticipation from the night before. With half-open eyes, I snap off the rubber band holding the rolled up newspaper in the morning, search for my story, and revisit it many times a day.
It is not simply narcissism, though every journo and writer is a bit of a self-centred narcissist inside. George Orwell got it right when he laid down the four motives to write in his essay “Why I write” and placed sheer egoism at the top because as he said “All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery.”
I will not digress into a debate about the difference between a journalist and a writer here. Somewhere, the lines are diffused and they tend to overlap.
But in a country like Pakistan and the times we live in, the joy of seeing one’s name in print becomes even more profound. Journalists of both print media and broadcast risk their lives, literally, and get not much money in return.
It is an underpaid profession at the end of the day. Only people with an insatiable desire to speak out are good reporters.
In a nutshell, the byline or the name of the journalists means everything to them.
Only yesterday, at work, I was talking to a colleague who just wrote a daring piece. “I was told I shouldn’t put in my name in this write-up,” she said. “But of course you did,” I said. We smiled at each other. We all have been there.
But today’s (Friday’s) attack on the office of Express Media is more than 24 bullets, two injured people and an act of cowardice. It is something, I fear, which will lessen the number of bylines even further.
It will not just be the attackers who will be unnamed persons. Very soon, the people who dig out the stories that tell you what’s happening in the world around us will be veiled, shrouded and stacked up under umbrella terms like “media” and “correspondent”.
I fear, very soon, the perilous nature of the Pakistani journalism will rob us of the one satisfaction we have.