Creating a culture of news innovation in Pakistan
Ranked 145 out of 180 countries by the World Press Freedom Index, Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a journalist. Free Press Unlimited works with a variety of partners in Pakistan to strengthen the media landscape. One of them is The Centrum Media (TCM), Pakistan’s first all-digital independent news network. With more and more people looking for news online, it is vital to establish an online media landscape that brings professional and reliable news.
TCM was formed in 2017 by a group of video journalists and filmmakers living and working in Pakistan. In three years time it turned into one of the most cutting edge online platforms in Pakistan, reaching an audience of 25 million people per month. In the beginning of 2020, right before the worldwide outbreak of Covid-19, Free Press Unlimited started a collaboration with TCM with the aim to train independent media and journalist networks in Pakistan in the use of online platforms and formats to publish information that is engaging and attractive to a wide audience, while reporting on vital and compelling stories.
Finding new ways to bring the news
TCM was born out of a discontent about the way the mainstream media in Pakistan covers stories online, without making use of the possibilities of multimedia formats. They continually seek to innovate, bringing the news through new and engaging formats. The TCM team reports on important social and political stories, in which they highlight the people’s voice. These stories are brought in audio-visual formats that speak to a wide audience.
With the outbreak of Covid-19, the need for knowledge on how to bring reliable news online in ways that reach a wide audience became even more evident. The number of people looking for news online has increased greatly, but with that also the amount of fake news that is circulating the web. To help independent media in Pakistan to strengthen their presence online, TCM has expanded their efforts to share their experience.
Sharing best practices
With support from Free Press Unlimited, TCM has trained other media outlets in digital techniques and helped them extend their reach to a wider audience. By training journalists on topics such as filming techniques, the production of human-interest stories and gender sensitive content, TCM is equipping mainstream and independent media in Pakistan to be more effective online.
In 2020 TCM mentored 20 journalists coming from other Free Press Unlimited partners across Pakistan; the Tribal News Network, Pakistan Press Foundation, and the Digital Rights Foundation. Participants received both general, practical workshops as a group, as well as tailored training based on their own needs assessments. TCM also discussed emerging concepts such as participatory media, and journalism ethics in the digital age, with the participants. The training resulted in the publication of 18 multimedia reports to be published by the partners as well as through TCM’s online platforms. Furthermore, the partners will follow-up on the skills learned in this training with continued attention for multimedia content and digital platforms in 2021.
Increase the spread of reliable news
For 2021, Free Press Unlimited and TCM will build on this experience by running a more in-depth and intensive ‘Entrepreneurial Journalism Programme’ which will coach selected journalists through a series of trainings and productions, including hands-on mentorship and a three month apprenticeship to gain practical experience with digital content production and media entrepreneurship.
The collaboration between Free Press Unlimited and The Centrum Media will continue to result in trained journalists who can enhance the spread of reliable information online and reach the growing digital news audience more effectively, building a culture of news innovation and experimentation in Pakistan. As a result, this program will increase the flow of reliable, trustworthy information - a cornerstone of a healthy democracy.
Photo: Digital Rights Foundation