Journalism 101

Jan 17th, 2012 | By | Category: Ethics

Zoha Waseem is not a household name. She doesn’t have her own talk show on Geo, her face is not the center point of full colour ads run in daily newspapers, and she doesn’t spend her days molding the opinions of the masses with a regular column in one of our many daily newspapers. But she does appear to have a better grasp of the fundamentals of journalism that many of those who do. Thankfully, she has taken the time to remind our esteemed colleagues of some of the basics that they may have forgotten along the way to building their successful careers.

Actually, these basics are not new by any means. As she notes in her excellent piece for The Express Tribune blog, they consist of nine principles of journalism outlined in 1997 as part of the Committee of Concerned Journalists Statement of Shared Purpose. The nine principles are:

  1. Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth (read: assemble facts and verify them)
  2. Its first loyalty is to the citizen (read: not to any political party or politician)
  3. Its essence is the discipline of verification (read: separate yourself from fiction, propaganda, and entertainment. Refer to principle 1. Also refer to Shamsul Anwar)
  4. Its practitioners must maintain an independence from those they cover (stay neutral; stay fair. Your credibility as a journalist comes from accuracy, not your devotion to Imran Khan or your fondness for the judiciary)
  5. It must serve as an independent monitor of power (read: journalism can serve as a watchdog over those in power; that freedom need not be exploited!)
  6. It must provide a forum for public criticism and compromise (read: we love discussion. Najam Sethi, though whatever his background may be, has one of the most peaceful talk shows. Discussion and foul-mouthed arguments during live broadcasts are two different modes of communication.)
  7. It must strive to make the significant interesting and relevant (read: entertainment engages your audience; news enlightens it. Understand the difference.)
  8. It must keep the news comprehensive and proportional (read: know your demographics.)
  9. Its practitioners must be allowed to exercise their personal conscience (read: carry a moral compass)

All of these together could probably be summarized in one simple phrase – “Just the facts!”  Something that our celebrity journalists could do to remember.  Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but just because you are on TV does not mean you’re entitled to your own facts.

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