[For BSMC 2k14 students of News Reporting & Writing]
Welcome to the spring 2016 News Reporting & Writing course!
Exactly a year ago, we embarked on what I called an “ambitious experiment” at that time: to revive and develop a news website for the department of mass communication at the School of Social Sciences & Humanities at NUST. It was an exciting time, and I am happy to claim that with the immense support of student journalists from the 2k13 batch, we were able to produce great work and complete at least the first phase of a larger project.
So now, we must continue what we started, and try and make it a sustainable initiative. I am referring to Pakistan Ink, an independent and unofficial news website run by the students of the mass communication department at NUST. As students enrolled in the News Reporting & Writing course, you will be working as reporters for Pakistan Ink. Over the next 16 weeks, we will cover news and events on the H-12 campus, report on the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, and write about other national and international developments.
We will talk in detail in our sessions about what the reporting role entails and how you will perform it. I understand that while some of you have varying degrees of experience in practical journalism, some of you might be entirely new to journalism and reporting. So right at the beginning, I want you to know that it’s not going to be easy. Journalism is never easy. Reporting is stressful. You will have a lot of work, which you will have to juggle with the other academic courses you are studying. You will have tight deadlines. You will have to run around campus, around town, trying to find story ideas and sources to populate your stories. You will face ethical dilemmas and learn to resolve them, you will face hostile sources and learn to win their trust, people will turn you away, refuse to talk to you, you’ll feel frustrated at times or feel that you have failed. Between now and June, all of this will happen to you.
I also want you to know that you must not panic.
Journalism is also tremendously exciting and fun. News is all around us and you will get to report and write about stuff that matters in a meaningful way. You will learn by doing. You will understand the challenges of reporting and ways to overcome these issues. You will learn tonnes of new information about everything under the sun. All this will only be possible, however, if you strive to develop what I call “the Reporting Attitude”. It’s really a mindset that you have to build to approach this course and journalism, in general. You have to see yourself as a reporter first and an undergraduate student second, for this course. What this means is that you must immediately feel confident about your identity as a journalist, as a reporter. This confidence will be crucial when you go out on your first coverage assignment or sit down to write your first news story for Pakistan Ink. You will also need to immerse yourself in the process, which means you must devote time to it. The best way is to volunteer for reporting assignments. Reading the news is also crucial to your growth as a reporter. (We’ll talk about all this in class.)
Also, familiarize yourself with the Pakistan Ink website. Read the articles, browse the categories, and go over our social media presence. You are part of this now and you must work over the next four months to improve the system.
Finally, to quote from my welcome message for your predecessor staff of reporters: “Newsrooms are magical places, fuelled by caffeine and the thrill of breaking news and the stress of delivering a quality news product on deadline. We won’t get to witness all of this immediately, but we intend to build towards such an environment slowly and steadily.” Yes, we do.
So my advice to you is to feel confident, give it your best and enjoy the reporting experience! Best of luck!
Note: Special mention for the inspiration and support behind the way this course is organised: I am following an approach known commonly as “the Missouri Method” that emphasizes practical learning of mass media through hands-on training modules. The course is largely inspired by the one taught at my alma mater, the Missouri School of Journalism, by Professor Katherine Reed. The Pakistan Ink website was first established in 2012 by department faculty Assistant Professor Muhammad Umar. It became inactive in the period between 2013 and 2015. In spring 2015, the students of 2k13 revived the website with their news reporting efforts.