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Failing to Provide Less International Coverage

Professional journalism is believed to be an authentic source of public enlightenment, forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. And that is what I learnt during my interaction with some of senior journalists in different news organizations, including Minnesota Public Radio. The first thing which dawns on me and comes as a surprise to me that unlike Pakistan media organizations in the U.S. are run on public support. In Pakistan, the big media groups are owned by businessmen and every news channel or newspaper generates its own income trough commercial or ads from multinational companies and the government. Therefore, media is run an industry generating hoards of money for the owners. This is from where the pressure on media starts from the owners of the channels. But this is not the case in the U.S. where editorial boards of media outlets do not complain about any pressure coming their owners to support the agenda of one political party or the other. Media in Pakistan is existing and surviving in an environment that is hostile due to immaturity of democratic set up and the war on terror which many believe does not originally belongs to us, but has been imposed on us. In 2002, Pakistan witnessed the liberalization of broadcast media when former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, allowed private news channels to operate in the country. Prior to the openness of the news media, the state-run Pakistan Television (PTV) enjoyed monopoly on the news. Given the control of the government on the broadcast news industry, the Pakistan Television provided one-sided news stories mostly appreciative of the government policies and intentionally critical of opposition parties and their leaders. Hence, the news media in Pakistan totally failed to play a positive role in the promoting democracy in the country. With the liberalization of private news channel, journalism took a dramatic turn in Pakistan. Nearly 45 news channels started disseminating news 24/7 and provided equal air time to all opposition parties. While on the one hand, private news channels encouraged open debate on hitherto social and political taboos, they also opened doors for young journalists. The Pakistani media has defined its role as watchdog to the wrong policies of the successive governments and it has revealed and exposed several massive wrongdoings and corruption scandals of the rulers. A chit chat with some journalists gave me the sense that how much the journalists follow code of ethics here, how much effort they make to bring out a bullet proof story which doesn't bounce back and how much they are concerned about the ethics of publishing on the Internet, such as rules on quoting information from social media, using a point of view in reporting and writing articles and headlines. But what bothers me is that despite all high standards of journalism being followed by the U.S. people are quite ignorant about the other parts of the world. A last year survey from MPO research group found that the American media is missing the mark when it comes to the coverage of international news. During my visits to Ely, Lake Shetek and other places, I found myself explaining people the significant role of Pakistan in the war on terror and how much strategically significant country it is in the South Asian region. It also sheds light on the dark side; of the U.S. media which is more into domestic-driven news. Let me take the opportunity to share an interesting episode at Lake Shetek. During a dinner with some of the affluent families of the areas, one person queried; “do you have TVs in Pakistan?” I took a little bit of while to be more articulate and replied “we have 45 news channels in Pakistan”. I don’t blame that person for poor knowledge because I believe that admission of ignorance is a first step towards education. But I also understand that this education should come from U.S. media to its people who (people) want to know about other parts of the world and often complain about less international coverage by the state media outlets. Ans we see that average American citizen's awareness of the overseas issues seems deficient. Most interestingly, the U.S. media outlets don’t face much competition within their respective states unlike in Pakistan where the rating war between media houses is compelling them to do more in terms of its coverage of the events on both national and international level. It is firmly believed that rating orientation among the media channels is a progressive activity and minimum level of competition is not good for the health of journalism as well! Though, we have yet to qualify many levels of journalism in Pakistan as the media in country is at a very nascent stage unlike the one in the U.S. We have yet to be at par with the Western media standards, we have yet to abreast ourselves with news technological tools being employed in the West for the gathering and dissemination of news. However, the media in Pakistan is struggling its way up, more robust and vocal. The context of the environment we work in is perhaps more precarious than the West. Journalists in Pakistan are not protected under First Amendment of the constitution like the one in America. We, the Pakistani journalists, face threats from politicians, military, warlords, tribal elders, religious extremists and various militant groups like Taliban and Al-Qaeda which is highly unlikely in the United States. I wish we have the same protection laws with their strong implementations in place in Pakistan which makes our jobs more easier and help us qualify more standards of U.S. journalism.

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Diabetes deep fried on a stick

Diabetes deep fried on a stick

In one of the early books of the series Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura's father Charles Ingalls travels hundreds of miles away to find work after grasshoppers destroyed their crops.

It’s around Christmas and on the way back he gets caught in a horrendous blizzard. He survived by digging himself into a snow bank and by eating all the Christmas candy he bought for Laura and Mary. At one point the blizzard lulls and he spots the light from a lamp in a window and realizes that he is just a few meters from his house.

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Why US public toilets remind me of the NSA

Why US public toilets remind me of the NSA

It doesn’t happen very often that I feel a little culture shock in the US. The American culture reaches me on a daily basis in the Netherlands through music, movies, TV-series and literature. But there is one place that makes me uncomfortable every time I visit the land of the free: the public toilet.

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Changing tastes and expanding waists

The United States is the fattest country in the world. It is also one of the wealthiest.

Those two pieces of trivia are not unrelated. In fact, there’s a noted correlation between bulging pay cheques and burgeoning body mass. The World Health Organisation (WHO) notes that higher and upper middle-income earners are more than twice as likely to be overweight than lower income people.

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The danger of a single narrative

Couple of weeks ago, up in Ely, I was sitting up late at night talking to my co-host Sharon Staat. Sharon lives in Chicago but visits Anne Swenson up in Ely twice a year – they’ve been friends for over 50 years! The details of our conversation escape me, but I remember it covered a broad swathe of subjects from immigration in America to concerns over terrorism to Native American history and women’s rights. It was all perfectly lovely till Sharon mentioned that she was a Republican.

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Judge Tunheim

 

Interview in Pressa daily (national bulgarian newspaper) with John Tunheim, district judge for Minnesota. From 1994-1998 he was appointed by president Clinton to serve as a chair of the U.S. Assassination Records Review Board in charge of declassifying governments records of the Kennedy assassination. He reveals more details about the results and conclusions made by the board. 

 

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Media as charity

“You won’t find the name Kardashian on our website,” MinnPost’s executive editor Andrew Putz said. We were sitting in a circle in a Minneapolis warehouse where MinnPost, an online news outlet for the Minnesota area, has its offices. MinnPost is a non-profit media organisation that depends on grants and donations for a large chunk of its income. The site offers daily updates with mainly background stories and analyses, serving a highly educated public who also read The New Yorker and the New York Times (and generally couldn’t care less about the Kardiashians).

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The value of editorial independence

Piles of papers stacked at the edge of desks. Cups of coffee that were left behind due to the rush. Phones ringing and old headlines highlighted with red marker hanging in the walls. Visiting the editorial newsroom of the Star Tribune on August 14, along with the 2014 WPI fellows, remained me how good is the feeling of working on an in-depth feature that only relies on interviews, research and analysis, released from editorial constraints imposed by political censorship.

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The value of editorial independence

Piles of papers stacked at the edge of desks. Cups of coffee that were left behind due to the rush. Phones ringing and old headlines highlighted with red marker hanging in the walls. Visiting the editorial newsroom of the Star Tribune on August 14, along with the 2014 WPI fellows, remained me how good is the feeling of working on an in-depth feature that only relies on interviews, research and analysis, released from editorial constraints imposed by political censorship.

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News as entertainment: the wonderful world of U.S. television

“BREAKING: Officer on Ferguson crowd control relieved of duty” screams across the bottom of the screen, blocky white letters on a bright CNN-red strap. A day later, the same story is still running as breaking, with a new twist: “LIVE: Cop suspended over hate-filled rant”.

(If you’ve been living under a rock and need some context on this story, click here.) 

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