The rivalry and altercation between social and conventional news media has gained momentum during the last decade. A few years ago, social media was not as much powerful, vocal and strong as it is today. People would love to get information from mainstream newspapers early in the morning. Reading English newspapers was a status symbol for the elite.
Most of the people used to watch news bulletin on state television at 9pm, while some others used to tune in to the British Broadcasting Service (BBC) and other foreign radio stations to get authentic news.
Presently, even though digital editions of almost all newspapers are available, there are people who want to read the printed newspaper although its price is going higher by the day. Newspapers are believed to provide reliable source of information as the editorial staff, devoted journalists and monitoring agencies check every news before it is being published and circulated among the masses. On the other hand, social media provides all kinds of news without any authenticity or verification. People can present their points of view and opinions without any social, moral or professional obligations.
It reminds me of a past incident. About a decade ago, when the five-year tenure of the National Assembly was nearing its end, parliamentarians passed a unanimous resolution jointly by treasury and opposition benches with thunderous desk thumping against a section of electronic media for airing a programme against parliament without research or due verification. This happened about 10 days before the National Assembly was to complete its term. It was a time for parliamentarians to get more coverage and interaction with news media ahead of elections rather than to start any conflict. That they still chose to react so strongly indicated the seriousness of the situation.
It is important to look back at the Pakistan Movement and afterwards to dig out the history of journalism. While Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah founded Dawn, Maulana Mohammed Ali Jauhar used his Comrade and Hamdard to serve their respective audiences with professional journalism. There were several others who did the same. The spirit continued till the late 1970s when a host of luminaries did their best to serve the cause of professional journalism even in the face of black laws and restrictions. Pakistani society till that period was tolerant and inclusive, and people cared about social and moral values of even their opponents.
The news media, which at the time consisted of one television channel and a few newspapers other than those of the National Press Trust (NPT), has now grown into a full-fledged industry. Today, media houses have generally relegated even senior journalists to a position of ignominy, while social media platforms and fake websites have worsened the situation, making anyone a ‘ournalist’. It is a collective platform for all activists to air ‘news’ without verification and with malicious intent just to promote their own agenda or to please their masters.
Unfortunately, we, Pakistanis, have a very short memory and any latest news or story of corruption disappears from the screens and is forgotten by us very quickly. Instead of getting punished, the culprits resurface under some other banner to promote their master’s agenda.
With technology available, using old photos and videos to fabricate images to make them mean something entirely different is mere child’s play.
The sanctity of the written word has been compromised. In fact, the pen has been replaced by a microphone or a mobile keypad. The outcome has been rather negative in almost every sense of the word.