Friday, May 27, 2011

Editorial setup in Pakistani Newspapers

In most cases in Pakistan those who have financial stakes in newspapers and magazines (mostly proprietors) are also the editors of the publications, which is an unfair practice because commercial interests often clash with responsible editorial policies.

There have, however, been a few exceptions. Pakistan Times, published from Lahore and Rawalpindi, and Dawn, now published from Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad have had professional editors, who reported to the owners only in so far as the policy of the publication was concerned. They have the authority to hire (and fire) the editorial staff and transfer them, if there be a need for it. The owner’s name doesn’t even appear on the newspaper.

Newspapers and their Political alliances

In papers like called Jasarat( Jamaat-e-Islami paper), the high command of the party appoints the chief executive who has to subscribe to the policies of the party. He in turn appoints a professional editor, who just has to have policy guidelines in front of him while running the show professionally.
Musawat, a paper from the stable of the Pakistan People’s Party, now no more, was another such example. That’s not an unusual point we come across papers all over the world which are owned by political parties.

We also find papers which have their fixed leanings. For example, The Telegraph of the UK is a rightist paper, while The Guardian and The Independent, both published from London, are what they call the left of the centre publications.

In Pakistan some journalists who have enough money or can get financial support become the proprietors of the newspapers and/or magazines that they start bringing out. After them their sons take over. But it’s not a happy sign for as already mentioned the owner should not be the editor for there are chances that economic considerations may take precedence over editorial honesty.

Professional setup in the print media

Let’s have a look at the professional setup in print media. The editor is considered senior to production director, finance director, marketing directors (one responsible for advertising and the other for circulation), HR chief and the procurement head. He is in some ways a more privileged person in the newspaper industry.

Under the editor there are assistant editors or senior subeditors responsible for the leader and op-ed pages (abbreviated from opposite the editorial page), news pages, city pages, business and financial pages, sports pages and magazines.

In the case of news section, under the news editor there are shift in charges, who work in two shifts, one that commences in the afternoon and ends till the late evening, and the second shift, often nicknamed the graveyard shift which works till the early hours of the morning. The shift in-charges have subeditors working for them, whose job is to edit the copies. The shift in-charge of the second shift gets the news pages done, both national pages and international pages. The city editor has subeditors too and he gets the page makers to make his pages. The city editor has reporters and photographers working for him. In some leading foreign papers they have photo editors too, who work for the news editors. They commission the photographs and determine the size of its publication.

The reporters have their beats. The lady who covers the educational institution will not cover the annual general meetings of corporate bodies, just as a sports reporter will not cover cultural functions like book launches and art exhibitions. Also among the political reporters, there is a division of political parties. So, if there is a press conference of the PPP, the reporter whose beat is the PPP will attend it. About the same time there may be a demonstration by the MQM, so the reporter who is assigned the party will make it a point to cover the event.

Some of the leading newspapers have special correspondents employed on a salary basis or as stringers, who are paid on the basis of their reports, both at home and abroad. The main cities have bureaus, where there is a chief reporter under whom there may be one or more junior reporters.

Since it’s not possible for any newspaper to have reporters at all places at home and abroad, they rely on the news and photographs from news agencies, such as Reuters, AFP, AP and our own APP.

They also have syndicated services with leading newspapers abroad, whereby they can carry news items, articles, features and photographs published in those papers. Needless to say, the newspapers which use the contents pay to the content-producing publications. For instance, Dawn uses Guardian Service (which is based on the articles or features published in the Guardian newspaper).

The man or woman in-charge of the op-ed pages gets editorials written by the team of staff writers and articles on these pages (also referred to as leader pages, since leader or lead article is the word commonly used for editorials). The op-ed page in-charge commissions articles, who are supposed to be authorities in their fields and also hires columnists, who write every week or sometimes every other week on different subjects.

Columnists don’t write only on the op-ed pages. Even pull out magazines have their columnists. There are some guests columnists who are invited to write for a particular slot once in a while.  

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