U.S. Newsrooms vs. Pakistani Newsrooms

By Khalid Khattak

Newsrooms in United States are different from the newsrooms back in Pakistan. This difference is visible in terms of what is provided to journalists, the working environment and of course the assignments.

I am honored that my host newspaper, The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Washington DC, is the one where Danny Pearl actually worked. At the same time, it’s also a challenge to continue legacy of the journalist who died in the line of duty thousands of miles away from his home.

It’s been just a week and so far what I have witnessed is simply amazing. The WSJ journalists are well equipped technologically (I even got an iPhone for my five-month stay with this organization).

It may be surprising for many readers of this post to learn that even today many Pakistani journalists file their stories on paper. Yes, handwritten stories on pieces of paper! 

I was amazed to learn that reporters at the WSJ are issued corporate credit cards which they use to pay for work-related expenses such as meals during meetings with sources, mobile phone, subscriptions to trade books and directories and office supplies. They also pay for travel. And this traveling is not limited to domestic travel but to foreign countries as well. For example, the WSJ reporter who covers the State Department is currently touring different countries along with Secretary John Kerry. His travel will be covered by the WSJ. 

This is quite different in Pakistan when journalists, usually those with higher level positions, accompany the Prime Minister during his/her foreign tour. They all travel together on state expenses despite the fact that Pakistan is a poor country.

Except few big media organizations including The News International, my home organization, journalists in Pakistan do not have proper telephones through which they can contact sources, leave alone the idea of equipping journalists with smartphones. 

On my second day, I was given the opportunity to do an online training program using Accurint which is used to extract valuable information from a huge database by the WSJ.

Unfortunately, media organizations in Pakistan do not invest in journalists’ skill development. With that said, my organization in Pakistan is indeed different. This is evident from the fact it allowed me to avail this wonderful opportunity of capacity building despite that the fellowship is over five-months long.