Reviews

Journalism and the Journalist

By Ahmet Abdulaziz………

During mid 60’s when I had just started my middle school, my father used to write once a week a program for Radio Pakistan.

Journalism was his part time work, as he was also working as an Accountant. There used to be a  program on radio for the school-going children, in which the background information of one or more events related to school-going youth, were given. My father used to write that. I remember a youth cricket team had arrived from the UK to play cricket, and my father wrote a program about the visiting team, mentioning the names and ages of the players, along with detailed background and history of the game of cricket.

In the same way, I remember, on the International Scouts day, he had written a detailed article about the inception and history of scouting.

One day he asked me if I would re-write his final script in a more clear and legible form. I did that. That was the beginning of my apprenticeship as a journalist. From that day onwards apart from re-writing the script, slowly I learned the basics of  journalism. I learned where to look for the required information. In that era, the internet was not even thought of. The encyclopedias were the main source of information.  Apart from that the daily newspapers also used to serve as the main source of information.

With the passage of time, which spanned over 5 or 6 years, my father started using me in a more positive and constructive manner, as I progressed. He used to give me the topics on which the script was to be written later.  I had had to collect information from encyclopedia and newspapers, and mark those pages. My father, after returning from his office, used to sit and write the script according to the information which I had already marked up.

In the next stage he started asking me to write a rough script, which he used to finalise later. Of course I was the final writer of the script, since even after he had finalised the script, I would be re-writing the whole in clear and legible handwriting.

Over years, I had been writing more and he had been changing my script very little.

Unfortunately,  Radio Pakistan closed his program in 1970 or maybe 1971.

For writing an article for publication, one must be able to collect the required information, and to arrange that information in the best possible form.  My father had a friend who was the Assistant Editor in a local English newspaper. He introduced me to him. I frequently had to go to a local newspaper office, where they used to paste the sorted news according to the topics on thick registers. Those thick registers used to carry the topic of the news cuttings pasted inside. I remember there used to be thick registers with City news, sports, local politics, international politics, etc etc etc. They used to be kept on shelves. It was the library from where I had always been finding most of the information needed.

However, what I obviously learned from those sorted out news clippings, is the format of a newspaper. I had not realised that then, but with the passage of time, as I had been visiting the same newspaper office and spending a couple of hours there, twice a week (Saturday and Sunday, my school off days) going through various news clippings, the format of a newspaper, and how a caption or heading has been made, absorbed into my mind. With passage of time, I developed another interesting habit. I started comparing the published news regarding the same event or activity in different newspapers, to see how the same event has been reported differently. That was the real foundation of my future, at that young age.

Since the radio program was to be written in Urdu language, but I had been collecting information from encyclopedia in English and from the news clippings of the English newspapers, it also helped to improve my English. Noticing my interest in journalism my father applied a unique method that not only helped improving my written English but also polished my skills as a newspaper writer/columnist. I remember he used to ask me to select any one particular news of my interest, from the English newspaper. I had to read the whole news and understand it, sometimes all by myself and sometimes with his help. Once read, I had to re-write the same news item, with a different news heading and avoiding to repeat the same sentences as published in the newspaper. This practice helped me to re-write the same news item, and also helped me in formatting the heading of any publishable event or activity.

Unfortunately, since my father was not in a position to be a field journalist, who runs after and collects the news, since journalism was not his career, he remained  a freelance journalist, writing articles about various topics. Since this is what I had learned from him, I too ultimately started working as a freelance journalist, writing articles and carrying out interviews for different newspapers and magazines. Since my full time career was different, I too could not become a field journalist.

But when I look back over so many years, I see myself developing and heading onwards in the field of journalism, and that’s what I love.