Bhoja Air crash: Tragedy for the professional cynic

Published: April 21, 2012

The people in the crash were not photo opportunities. They were not a good news story. PHOTO: MUHAMMAD JAVAID

Here’s what an ordinary day in the newsroom is like:

Stories come in, at regular intervals. People edit them, casually, in the knowledge that our paper will reach our readers tomorrow. People take cigarette breaks. Someone reminds someone else to turn the television on in case of breaking news, which usually turns out to be something insipid (at least for a journalist), like tyre burning at XYZ roundabout.

Here is what today, the day that over a hundred lost their lives in the Bhoja Air crash, was like:

At close to 7 pm, breaking news turned out to be far more than burning tyres. It turned out to be a tragedy. It turned out to be a tragedy reminiscent of another crash, still embedded in the nation’s consciousness.

Immediately, a sense of urgency set in. This was not an ordinary day. In a profession where even the most violent and horrific incidents tend to appear mundane to desensitised and cynical journalists, this was not an ordinary day.

Much will be written about the heart-wrenching tales of families torn apart, of who is to blame and why. I’m not in a position to comment on that. As television runs gory photos accompanied by eerie music and shots of family members who probably just want some privacy, I’d rather not talk how depressing it is. I know that nothing I feel while covering the tragedy can compare to what those who have lost their families and friends feel.

But what I do know is, I, along with all my colleagues, felt the need to report the issue responsibly.

As a print journalist, it’s necessary to ensure that one steers clear of the sensationalist nonsense that television persistently indulges in. The people lost in the crash were exactly that – people. Not numbers. People with stories, and histories, and futures cut abruptly short.

The people in the crash were not photo opportunities. They were not a good news story. They were not a novel way of updating one’s Twitter feed.

Sad as this sounds – that’s how a journalist knows it’s not an ordinary day. When the events of the day are more than Twitter, photos, well-edited copies and a human interest angle.

A day when a journalist can recognise a tragedy as just that – a tragedy – is not an ordinary day.

Read more by Heba here, or follow her on Twitter @hebaislam.

Heba Islam

Heba Islam

Heba Islam is a sub-editor at the national desk at Express Tribune. She tweets @hebaislam.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Anthony Permal

    Wish you could teach that to some of the countless journos who royally ignored the word ‘professionalism’ yesterday.Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Much will be written about the heart-wrenching tales of families torn apart, of who is to blame and why.
    Their is no need to shy away from the fact that journalists do sensationalis the news and when it comes to a national tragedy likes of THE Earthquake Air blue, Siachen and yesterdays’ Bhoja airline crash Journalist do ask silly question to the depressed party How do you feel about that..??
    Now print media as an advantage of reporting late so, much more is scrutinized and even if the heading takes quarter of the first page the report heavily edited so some are their to keep check.
    Tele-Journalist on a daylike these Jump walls of privacy and Poke where its hurts. Even the veterans if you see on TV act like 2 year olds. Their is a strong need of training for days like these as, Its not an ordinary day for even those who loose their loved ones in motorcycle accidents be it a day when airliner crashes. Recommend

  • Sarmad Naseer

    Touched the heart. Tele journalism seems like a facade of information…giving people “lamha ba lamha” updates on the “situation”. Sadly its turned even the most sensible of people into update seeking zombies who’re lusting for each juicy detail like a pack of wild african hunting dogs. What’s trivial or mundane to one is live changing for another.Recommend

  • Amnah Khalid

    Glad to read the views of responsible journalism speak up and some reason to prevail over a national tragedy. Indian media too had picked up words of some irresponsible reporters where bodies were referred to as body part, dehumanizing those killed. It is a sad day for Pakistani and should set the tone for sympathy and privacy for families. Death if sensationalized would take journalism in a direction of paparazzi. Kindly recall the death of Lady Diana and the sensation caused. Do you want such a future of tragedies or journalism.?Recommend

  • Arman

    Well written Heba! Taking an economic perspective on this issue – that of sensationalist journalism – one can’t help but wonder if competition breeds insensitivity. If so, would regulation encourage deference?Recommend

  • Zain Gilani

    All of our news channels. They just know one thing -“RATINGS”. We were the first one who leaked this news. Seriously ? Why is there no law on covering such tragic events ? It’s honestly incomprehensible to me why our news channels lack even the basic decency to leave the grieving families alone.Recommend

  • akka

    Oh god… more journalistic angst. Please get relevant… soonRecommend

  • Kaka

    I second you akkaRecommend

  • Vigilant

    Our most TV channels have forgotten this word PROFESSIONALISMRecommend

  • Meral Nadeem

    Bravo Heba Islam!! Recommend