The News, or PR for Rent?

The News (Jang Group)Reporting on Imran Khan’s rally has taken many forms. From the varying estimates of the crowd’s numbers which easily give away a journalist’s political leanings, to the thinly-veiled giddiness of Hamid Mir, to The Nation‘s tasking Imran with “declaring his own assets first”, many of the media reactions to Imran Khan’s rally on Sunday were to be expected. One piece, though, stands out for mention.

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In Monday’s issue of The News (Jang Group), an article appeared with the title, ‘Imran Khan has the calculus’. The piece paints Imran as a ‘statesman’ with ‘a wise head on his shoulders’ and describes him as ‘exposing the President and his team’. In fact, the piece was a laudatory hymn to Imran’s speech the day before. All of this would be expected on the Opinion page, but this piece, once again, appeared on page 5 as ‘National News’. True, the piece was labeled as ‘News Analysis’, but here is where things take a turn for the strange – this ‘analysis’ was credited to ‘our correspondent’.

Who was this ‘correspondent’ that wrote such a glowing praise of Imran’s appearance? Readers are not let to know. This appears to be an additional step of The News that not only moves opinion pieces into the news sections, but now even leaves them unsigned so that readers cannot even judge the credibility of the author. How are we to know if this piece was written by a staff reporter, a political scientist, or a PTI media advisor? Was this a legitimate ‘news analysis’ by a neutral analyst, or a press release from PTI’s Punjab office?

There is nothing wrong with providing analysis to help readers get a broad view of current events. But this is what opinion pages are for. Presently, The News has two pages that are correctly labeled as ‘Opinion’, but apparently it is not enough since we have seen blatant opinions bearing the labels ‘commentary’ and ‘analysis’ creeping into the regular news sections. Now, Jang Group editors are not even bothering to give the name of the author. Recently, we saw similar bias in The News for Islami Jamiat Talaba (JIT). If The News is willing to print paeans to whatever party is presently holding events, one might ask if The News is a newspaper of professional journalism or a newspaper for rent.

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