By Shazia Anwer Cheema
While traveling back to Pakistan from Prague for attending the International Media Conference at the University of Okara where my paper was scheduled to be presented, I was thinking that it would be very hectic to manage too many lectures and meetings in the shortest possible time and then traveling to Okara and this all would make me tired. However, I was mistaken.
The lush green lands of my motherland sprawling both sides of G.T Road and then Multan Road energized me and all the burden of long haul travel was shunned off when I entered the exceptionally natural and beautiful surroundings of Okara University situated at Canal Bank. Tall trees standing at Canal Bank Road bowing down and tilted towards the road welcomed me under a misty rather mysteriously beautiful evening. I must appreciate and congratulate Professor Dr. Zakria Zakar the Vice-Chancellor of Okara University and Professor Dr. Bushra Rehman the President of the Association of Media and Communication Academic Professionals (AMCAP) for hosting an excellent, well-planned, and thought-provoking two-day International Conference at an exceptionally beautiful surrounding. The Conference was attended by foreign experts, top media practitioners from all over the country as well as distinguished Media academicians from all important universities of Pakistan.
I presented my paper “Breaking the conventional rules of social grouping and echo chamber phenomenon”. Ongoing pandemic has diverted the researcher’s attention even more toward the unguided massive use of technology especially communication-related technologies. At one end it triggers the debate about lack of street wisdom in current and upcoming generations due to dysconnectivity with the physical aspect of socialization and on the other end, it sprouts the apprehension regarding the decisively manipulative ability of virtual socialization.
In my Acamedic Paper, I tried to explain the impact of virtual societies based on virtual communications are manipulating hemophilic patterns and creating societies that are vulnerable to human emotions. We understand “Echo Chamber” impacts the individuality of human nature and restricts the reasoning and evaluation process. Echo-chamber primarily relies on “Filter Bubbles” thus adhere low moderation and directed control which leads to falsified communicative webs.
Attending different sessions gave me an idea that serious work is being done in Pakistan to understand the impact of technologies dealing with media tools and over a hundred papers were presented in almost all important subjects related to media studies.
The most important point that I registered out of this opportunity was to understand the bilateral relationship of media practitioners and Media academicians. Interactive sessions exposed the fact that their relations are not only tense rather have entered into a phase of infighting. Media academicians think that anchors sitting in television studios are making a mockery of the truth and the media ethics are being flouted while anchors were of the view that they are “demand-driven” and Media academicians did not understand the realities of the media industry.
In Pakistan, the rules placed by Higher Education Commission (HEC) have distanced Media Practitioners from universities because the majority of practitioners even having experiences of three to four decades in the field lack M.Phil. degrees therefore they cannot teach in the educational institutes as regular teachers and even their availability as visiting faculty is not easy. While academicians have no time to enter the journalistic field for understanding the realities of the sector. There are rear people who have tasted of both sides of the divide. This divide is becoming quite serious.
In this conference, the majority of academicians only talked about the negative role of anchors but nobody talked about other components of working journalists like reporters, sub-editors, hardworking staff of Op-ed, etc. I felt that even academicians think that practicing journalism is only move-around anchors—- a great misconception that must have been removed. Me working at both sides of the divide as a writer understand that practicing journalists are very responsible and they care about every single word that they publish or that is utter by them. Yes, we can target the anchor ship genre of video journalism but we should think and look at a broader perspective because criticizing working journalists without discussing the role of other stakeholders is not fair.
Media Practitioners are of the view that Media Academicians are providing the product (young degree holders) that is not produced in accordance with the demands of the market and they know nothing practically when they enter the market. Practitioners believe that instead of criticizing working journalists, Media Academicians should work to enhance the capacity of the product by understanding impediments and practical problems of working journalism.
Another point that came from media practitioners was the “self-censorship” syndrome. They claim that the existing circumstances that they are facing are making the majority of working journalists the victims of self-censorship. Since I am abroad so I am not qualified to comment on this point raised by working journalists. They were of the view that working journalists are (were) sandwiched between pressures coming from owners of media houses and the state and they have (had) to survive between them and same time trying to provide truth to the viewers, listeners, and readers.
While leaving the venue of the Conference, I had a firm belief that there is (was) a dire need for a constructive, forward-looking, target-oriented, and open Dialogue between Media Practitioners and Media Academicians, and the Association of Media and Communication Academic Professionals (AMCAP) can play a pivotal role in this regard and can take the initiative to arrange such Dialogue. I know Professor Dr. Bushra Rehman the President of AMCAP is energetic, promising, and one of the most respected personalities already bridging Media Practitioners and Media Academicians. I believe she should come forward and arrange Dialogue before the divide between the two would expand further. I have already requested her and I hope soon Media Practitioners and Media Academicians would sit across the table not for criticizing each other’s rather to understand the situation and would move forward together.
Note: The writer Shazia Cheema is an analyst writing for national and international media outlets. She did her MA in Cognitive Semiotics from Aarhus University Denmark and is currently registered as a Ph.D. Scholar of Semiotics and Philosophy of Communication at Charles University Prague.