The scene is a familiar one. A reporter, if you want to call him that, armed with a microphone and a cameraman is on the prowl.
There is an unsuspecting man in front of him, stunned into silence by the power of the mic and the camera. It’s another one of those ridiculous ‘exposé’ news reports. The ones where reporters barge into milk shops, clinics, eateries and all number of places with all the bluster of a state organisation and go about trying to ‘reveal’ all the evils taking place in that place.
It is an art form perfected in Pakistan by the likes of Iqrar ul Hassan Syed and practiced by countless television reporters trying to push and shove their way into the mainstream. It takes a dash of brazenness, a little bit more rudeness, and a whole lot of loudness, but it is a doable bit.
The most recent soundbite comes from the ‘Lahore Raang’ channel. The clip circulating on social media shows a young-ish reporter stopping a random car with a government number plate in the middle of the street , leaning in on the car’s windowsill and asking the confused looking driver whether he had a driving license.
When the driver responds in the affirmative, the ‘reporter’ goes on to shove the mic in his face and ask him to prove it in front of the camera. Now, this is usually the point in the show where the ‘reporter’, no doubt after much trial and error, catches someone red handed on camera. What happened to the gentleman from Lahore Raang instead was that sitting next to the driver was a government officer with seemingly little tolerance for such theatricality.
“Who are you to ask the driver for a license? Are you the traffic police” he questions.
The reporter goes into a spiel heard in a thousand khokhas and a hundred thousand drawing rooms.
“Sir if the common man is stopped its ok. But if an officer is stopped it is not ok” he says, trying to make a point but not doing that great a job.
“No but are you the traffic police” asks the naturally incredulous officer
“Who am I? Who are you” the reporter shoots right back at the gentleman.
“I am the secretary irrigation” he says.
The reporter, of course, smells blood. This isn’t just an opportunity to take apart some random person in a big car, this is his shot at dishing it out to a big bad bureaucrat. But the secretary irritgation is having none of it.
“Are you the traffic police?” he asks again, visibly angry.
“My driver has a license. Bring a traffic warden and I will gladly show it to him,” he says before dismissing the man and asking his driver to take the car away.
The reporter is equally infuriated.
“Look at the royal, nawabi attitude of these government officers” he screams into the camera before going on to disparage the traffic police and every other thing he can seem to think of.
But the show isn’t over, because there is still some bite left in him, and he once again approaches the car, only to be told off by the secretary irrigation again.
Now, the journalistic community was generally in agreement, this was not journalism, they said. Indeed, it was silly and juvenile. And license or not, nobody has to respond to a journalist’s questions when they are posed like this and in such setting.
One can understand why the channel would run with the segment though. With a city channel, there isn’t a lot of content, especially with reporters more interested in the loud and brash strain of reporting than the investigative or nuanced kind. Sometimes, this lack of content leads to charming bits and pieces like the Faisalabad C41 reporter that reported his own wedding. Other times, it leads to such embarrassments that go a long way in fueling anti-media sentiments in the masses.