KARACHI: In a rat race of ratings and hits that are important for political talk shows and entertainment content, the media must also strive to bring to the fore stories on social issues.
This was stated by speakers on the second day of a workshop titled ‘Powerful women, powerful nation’, organised by Uks, a nongovernmental organisation specialising in research on gender equality and women development, on Saturday. The event was aimed at improving reporting standards about women.
‘Is there a distinct lack of coverage for showcasing success stories of women in the print and electronic media in Pakistan?’ was the title of the first session.
At the session, a group of women reporters and anchors from the broadcast and print media and content producers from the online media shared various experiences where they overlooked a particular story thinking that ‘it might not appeal’ to a wider audience when in reality it had significant human interest.
The trainer took the group through a lengthy, though informative, presentation where multiple ideas ranging from reports on MGDs to entrepreneurship stories focusing on women were shared. She further shared examples, be it the annual budget stories, the 2005 earthquake and other events, where female voices were generally not taken into account in news reports as ‘the women were not considered worthy of an opinion’.
“Since a young age, parents and society conditions girls to keep their voices low and their opinions to themselves. This needs to be changed. The insight university students or workers at beauty salons offer on everyday matters are quite refreshing, but one has to make an effort to reach out,” she said.
During the second half, the participants shared their personal and professional experiences that they faced while reporting.
From a school in Lyari that helps improve female literacy thanks to its flexible timings, to expatriate adoptions, jailed women hoping to change their future and to a young girl running a transport business and another rickshaw driver, the list of stories was endless. However, the discussion reinforced the impression that while there were many positive stories about women doing their bit for change, they remained hidden from the public eye.
News anchor and morning show host at a Sindhi channel Nazia Memon said that while breakfast shows were targeted at a female audience, there was always the pressure to have a ‘light-hearted, fun show’ similar to those offered by mainstream Urdu channels.
However, viewers often called in to share their problems or highlight social issues. From honour killings to domestic abuse to getting legal aid, the variety of topics discussed on regional channels show that the audience wants these problems to be talked about,” she said.
Lubna Jerar Naqvi said newspaper editors must make efforts to publish stories that ‘portray struggle, show human resilience in the face of adversity’ and truly define success. Television reporters from news channels agreed that news producers must look at stories critically and put ratings aside.
“A story of a girl studying in jail and hoping to change her life once she is released or how flood victims in small towns are rebuilding their lives would not make ‘masala’ packages, but these stories give other women hope that things can improve,” said a TV reporter.