Who murdered journalism? | Pakistan Today

Who murdered journalism?

And what journalists, should do now

People trust us journalists. Sorry, they once did. They no longer do. Once upon a time, not long ago, we informed them, educated them, made sense of the events and accidents for them and treated them with respect.

Now all of that is gone, dear reader.

The roaring 2000’s of media are over, dead and buried, as I’ve written in these pages before. The only remnants of that time are falling prey to the onslaught of social media, reduced cash flow, dwindling government advertisements, massive saturation, advances in news gathering techniques, and newsrooms hooked on parasitism, monitoring, editing and rephrasing ‘news’ by other sources.

The first victims of this new reality are newspapers. Big, small, English, Urdu, regional, national, enjoying massive readership or catering to a fringe segment, quantity of newspaper readers is in a nosedive across the board. The online advertisements, although all pervasive, are yet to replace the traditional advertisement. The costs to print dailies are getting high by the day; the returns are not enough to keep organisations afloat. Resultantly many have perished and others are on life support.

The job of a journalist, since long, is to tell people the goings-on that affect them. What is wrong in their country, what is at the bottom of all that ails their community, how their city managers are hoodwinking them. And we the journalists did that, once, dear reader. We were the muckrakers. We were hooked on telling stories. We dug out skeletons that were interred deep. We haunted those who reigned supreme over the great unwashed. And we were the watchdogs.

Now, we are the haunted ones. Now, we the once hunters are being hunted. Time had some other fate for us in store. What we are now has no semblance with what we were. We, the journalists, brought mightiest of presidents down, we made the world see that in the name of winning ‘hearts and minds’ millions were slaughtered at the altar of ‘Great War for the World’, we trained ‘Spotlight’ on the pious who abused kids and robbed them of their innocence.

Our fall was not sudden, it was gradual but constant. We taught our viewers hooting when they see someone being made fun of his missing leg, we got them to howl when they hear the fictitious tale of elopement being attributed to someone’s sister, they savour the nasty innuendos and they enjoy covertly-sexual insinuations and allusions that disparage another human being. Now their glee, it seems, lies in all things abusive, shallow and horrid.

We, the journalists have slow-poisoned our trade.

We, dear reader, storytellers have transmogrified into heralds of anarchy. We pick and choose, edit and alter, deface and mar, cut and taint the world as we want you to see and never as it actually is. Fear of the unknown, of untold, of something terribly wrong is our weapon of choice. And we brandish and use it with wanton abandon.

The first victims of this new reality are newspapers. Big, small, English, Urdu, regional, national, enjoying massive readership or catering to a fringe segment, quantity of newspaper readers is in a nosedive across the board

We’ll tell you that the economy is in shambles, God has forsaken mankind in entirety, the world is at the brink of a complete collapse, two global powers will lock horns and once they are done fighting nothing will remain, there isn’t enough food to feed us, there aren’t enough resources to go around, and society is nothing but a den of evil-inundated sad, depraved individuals who do infernal things like rape, murder, slaughter, corruption, nepotism and hundred other pathetic deeds to others who are weak and powerless.

It is a bad, cruel world with neither redemption nor resolve. We, the journalists are trained to highlight what is neither normal nor regular. We thrive on scandals, scams, irregularities, corruption, and abuse of power, illegalities, murder, gore, filth, and sensationalism. Now, we are being sidelined and rendered sterile.

To conclude, an excerpt from one of my favourite films, Network.

Arthur Jensen: The world is a business, Mr Beale; it has been since man crawled out of the slime. Our children will live, Mr Beale, to see that perfect world in which there’s no war or famine, oppression or brutality – one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock – all necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilised, all boredom amused. And I have chosen you, Mr Beale, to preach this evangel.

Howard Beale: Why me?

Arthur Jensen: Because you’re on television, dummy. Sixty million people watch you every night of the week, Monday through Friday.

Howard Beale: I have seen the face of God.

Arthur Jensen: You just might be right, Mr Beale.

Or we just might be wrong since our trade has been murdered by us and us alone.