Independent and responsible digital news platforms are the future of journalism in Pakistan, senior journalists said in the virtual Capstone Project Launch Ceremony organized by Global Neighbourhood for Media innovations (GNMI) under its Pakistan Entrepreneurial Journalism Program on Thursday.
Several senior journalists including Mazhar Abbas, Gharida Farooqui, Kamal Siddiqui, Ayesha Bakhsh, Aoun Sahi, Tanzila Mazhar, Haroon Rashid, Ambar Shamsi, Sabookh Syed, Afia Salam, Zoofeen Ebrahim, Faisal Karim, Iffat Umer Rizvi, Tehreem Azeem, Masood Raza, Lubna Jerar Naqvi, Uzma Alkarim, Nadia Naqi as well as a growth hacker and co-founder of Bramerz Badar Khushnood and entrepreneur Marjan Arbab attended the virtual event.
GNMI launched Pakistan Entrepreneurial Journalism Program last year to support journalists by building their capacity in using technology and brand marketing for broadening the scale and number of independent and responsible news media platforms in Pakistan.
In the first phase of the program, a total of sixty-six journalists, content creators, and independent bloggers/vloggers were provided technical training in entrepreneurial journalism. A smaller batch of 20 most eligible journalists was formed, through a rigorous selection process, for the second phase of the program to craft their new platforms and ideas into sustainable business models.
The capstone launch ceremony was divided into four themes of startups – gender representation and social media, ethics as core consideration for localised digital news platforms, climate and wildlife protection – necessity, not choice, the relationship between economy, and under-emphasized societal values.
In each segment, the participants presented their digital news platforms followed up by comments and feedback from senior journalists, experts working in technology and business.
Broadcast journalist and president of GNMI, Najia Ashar said in her keynote address that the objective of the program was to provide essential training to journalists in content production, digital marketing, and monetization as well as resources to help them launch their own news projects independently.
“It was a learning process not only for our participants but also for us. A pool of twenty national and international experts in media, technology, and business was engaged in conducting the training with us. They also provided them one-on-one mentoring and today we are launching twenty independent digital news startups,” she said.
The twenty news platforms that were launched in the ceremony target different audiences. Five news projects in total are focused on climate change and wildlife. Another five projects focus on women and their issues from different parts of the country. Other projects serve different audiences including one for persons with disabilities, parents who have children with special needs, and people working in media and advertisements.
“Amid COVID-19 pandemic we had to move most of its activities online. It gave us the advantage to build a Media Incubation Centre and Acceleration Platform (MICAP) which is a virtual learning resource portal where the participants could access our customized courses that included syllabus, live sessions, case studies, presentations, assignments, and short videos,” she said.
The project was supported by the United States Consulate General Karachi. Deputy Council General Matt Ference was also present at the ceremony. In his speech, he appreciated the commitment and dedication of GNMI in support of media innovation in Pakistan. He said independent and responsible platforms are very essential to ensure democracy and accountability in a society.
“Journalism matters. It helps citizens inform what is happening around them and in the world. Your work is critical. Such programs empower journalists to find new streams of income. Thanks to the technologies it is easier than before to work independently.”
All guest speakers appreciated the efforts of participants in the program and gave them suggestions to make their startups better and sustainable.
Speaking to the session on the importance of ethics in digital journalism, senior journalist Mazhar Abbas said that mainstream media often ignores local news and relies on big events only. Digital news platforms can change this pattern by covering stories from remote areas.
He said that the journalist entrepreneurs should not compromise the journalistic code of conduct in their work. They much verify their sources and double-check the facts, know their subject before starting to work on the story and be confident.
Amber Shamsi said that the mainstream media lacks diversity and creativity. The digital news platforms allow journalists to cover diversified issues from their perspective. She was speaking in the gender representation and social media section. She said that digital platforms give more freedom to women journalists that mainstream media does not offer.
Aoun Sahi said that these startups could introduce solution journalism in Pakistan as they were not only highlighting the issue but were also suggesting the solution to solve it.
Haroon Rashid said that our society needed better media that focus on issues of common men rather than only politics. He advised the entrepreneurs to work on their content strategy and revenue generation for sustainability.
Lubna Jerar Naqvi said that the journalists should be careful of their safety and security as they work independently on their startups.
GNMI is a Karachi-based not-for-profit organization that works for media development in Pakistan with a hope to create an independent, pluralistic and innovative media that empowers every individual, community, and democracy at all levels.