Observations from The Kansas City Star

By Zahid Gishkori

“Our job is not to report the news but to make the news,” was the first advice given to me by Mike McGraw — a Pulitzer Prize winner and an investigative journalist at The Kansas City Star.

Zahid with Mike and his wife in The Kansas City Star newsroom.

“Look,” he said, “Our investigative reporting will reveal secrets and expose truths surrounded by silence.”

Keeping in mind these instructions about what an investigative journalist is supposed to do in the field as well as in the newsroom, I started my first project assignment with him.

From time to time, Mike and my mentor, Kathy Lu, visit me as saying: “Hi, Zahid. How are you doing? Anything you need?” This is an awesome encouragement for a reporter who is a stranger to this newsroom.

Even before I came to the U.S., I knew about Mike. One of my colleagues who is a University of Missouri graduate floated the idea of working with the well-known investigative reporter. So when I prepared a project proposal for the AFPP and the Kansas City Star, I expressed my desire to work with Mike.

After handing over more than 1,000 pages from official documents, Mike told me that we will obtain more files and interview the concerned people for the story. Normally in U.S. newsrooms, reporting an investigative story takes five to six months.  

But in my country — Pakistan — the situation is totally different.

We, with some exceptions, are forced to produce three to four stories per day. “Forget about quality journalism—filing a maximum [number of] stories is our top priority,” one of my editors had told in 2007 when I started my career with the English daily in Pakistan.

There is no comparison between a Pakistani newsroom and an American newsroom. The reason is obvious, Americans media industry is well established and has ample resources where no one can influence them. In my country the majority of publishers are businessmen.

American journos can obtain almost all information under their laws. They are well paid and often don’t have deadlines for the stories they are working on. In Pakistan, ten percent of journalists get their salaries on time while the rest are kept waiting for months and months. It’s an acknowledged fact that seven journalists over the last ten years have committed suicide after they were not paid by their owners.

Information laws are there but implementation of these laws remains a pipe dream in my country.

Honestly, it is an amazing experience to work with American journalists. Of course, working with both Mr. McGraw and Ms. Lu, is a matter of prestige. The Kansas City Star has won several major journalism accolades, including Pulitzer Prizes, Investigative Reporters and Editors awards, and list goes on and on.

This experience is exposing me to a new attitude toward reporting.

Perhaps, it’s the best attitude.