During my 25-day stay in Michigan, I found public media working for a mission, which is progress of the society, not money and power.
I am a Pakistani journalist and currently work at Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor, Michigan, under the journalist exchange program by the International Center for Journalists.
The people of Michigan and people of my home country face some common problems, especially issues related to health, broken roads, bankruptcy, crime and others. But I never saw public media reporters and editors take sides on these issues. Nor did I see them blame all the problems on the government.
From what I saw, public media teaches their society about their responsibilities and duties towards resolving the issues.
Michigan is a state in one of the world’s most powerful and influential countries, the U.S.A. Yet Michigan’s roads are bad and broken everywhere across the state.
I asked many people about this unexpected issue in the U.S. “Why are the roads so bad here?” I just got the same answer from everyone. They said, “We are not paying extra money, and that’s why they are broken, but we need to get them mended.”
I asked two of my Michigan Radio colleagues about the potential corporate role in this issue. Could the world class auto industries, which are based in this state, be responsible for these broken roads? Their answer was, “No. You can’t tie it to these companies. This is our fault. We are not ready to pay extra tax for these roads.”
After hearing that, I was just speechless.
They could have said, “Yeah, maybe, they may be influencing the government to leave the roads in poor condition, so that they can increase their car sales or repairs.”
The thought of “the people” being responsible for the roads might not seem to be astonishing for most of the people in the U.S., but it’s entirely strange to me being from Pakistan.
It’s a common practice in Pakistan that the media outlets blame the government for every issue, whether it’s really the government’s failure or not.
The media outlets are almost all owned by business tycoons. The news and the editorials of these corporate organizations are directed by these businessmen according to their interests, instead of the importance of the issues to the people.
To the corporate media, business is much important than any public related issue. The media outlet owners even get their news directed according to their interests (commercial, political) not based on importance of issues.
Pakistan faces plenty of issues ranging from terrorism to political and sectarian violence, corruption, poverty, illiteracy, foreign interference, inflation and unemployment, etc. In such a situation, the country desperately needs to introduce the concept of public media, not only for ensuring quality journalism, but also for encouraging the people to positively respond to these challenges.