Political journalism vs Business journalism

Published: August 22, 2011

Business journalism receives little attention in Pakistan. My observation is that most newspaper readers don’t read the business section the way they read the news, sports or opinion pages.

Few newspaper readers have a favourite business writer. Of all the well-known journalists, op-ed writers (opinion and editorial), and analysts in our print media, hardly anyone specialises in business and the economy.

Despite readers’ general apathy, the fact remains that business journalism matters more than political journalism.

The op-ed pages of Pakistani newspapers are full of opinions and editorialisation. But you’d ask, “Isn’t that what op-ed is supposed to be:opinion and editorial?”

Well, yes, but compare the op-ed pages of Pakistani newspapers to those of international newspapers. The most striking difference you will find is that of the use of statistics by op-ed writers.

American op-ed writers use published data, official figures, polls, research studies, think-tank reports and survey results to back their opinions. On the contrary, Pakistani op-ed writers only rant. They express their frustration over the failing government, and they do so in words only.

Writers receive acclaim in the Pakistan press, only due to the application of sound writing skills. They receive readers’ approval only when they write creative sentences and make their opinion sound good. However, their writing lacks one component which is essential for any op-ed published in a foreign newspaper- the use of reliable data and credible information to support the writers’ assertions.

To offer a comparison, let’s assume that Pakistan’s best English op-ed writer is, Ayaz Amir, and America’s is Fareed Zakaria. I challenge you to find just one article out of thousands that Zakaria has written which doesn’t quote some kind of statistical evidence or use published data. Similarly, I challenge you to find a single article out of thousands that Amir has written which does quote any statistics.

I have outlined, below, a few comparisons to further clarify my argument:

• Political journalism is juicy, but inconsequential. Business journalism is serious and important.

• Political journalism pushes readers to take extreme positions. Business journalism pulls people towards the centre of the ideological spectrum.

• Political journalism consists of everyday stuff which loses its relevance with the arrival of next day’s newspaper in the market. Business journalism directly affects policy decisions at the highest level.

• Political journalism is all about gossip, which attracts perpetual bashers of the past and present governments. Business journalism interests those who run the economy, pay taxes, create jobs and are productive members of society.

• Political journalism is about overstating the helplessness of the public and the indifference of the ruling class. Business journalism is about entrepreneurship, success stories and organisational turnarounds.

In short, political journalism is both quick and easy; business journalism is neither.


Kazim Alam

The writer is a business reporter for The Express Tribune.

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

  • http://www.pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    The problem with our nation is that we come in to talking rather then facts, We love exaggerated and ranting opinions. The nation that loves ethnic jokes and conspiracy theories will never accept this kind of editor-ism Recommend

  • Moon


    Good piece of writing. I think you must have also outlined the difference in the Urdu and English media as well. Because our Urdu press is politics centered, while English gives a little (now increasing) space to business, technology etc. Recommend

  • Anaam Raza

    Probably one of the first articles I’ve seen about the state of Business Journalism. But your point about the lack of statistics in Pakistani op-ed pieces hits the nail on the head. Be it English or Urdu analysis, facts don’t come anywhere near them. Recommend

  • umair

    In a country besieged by political turmoil business articles have taken a back seat. Doubt most 3rd world countries would prefer reading business articles over political ones because once we fix the political aspect only then an we focus our attention to the business aspect.Recommend

  • Shahid

    Did not expect such piece by Kazim. If there is business, press will talk about it, if there are blasts instead, you wont be talking about pouring Foreign Investment. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/264/huma-iqbal/ Huma Iqbal

    I always wanted to become a business journalist and I studied it extensively, only to later take up a career in political journalism and that too the entire volatile region of South Asia…who says Pakistan’s is nerve wrecking?!Recommend

  • Muhammad Iqtidar Alam

    Appreciated Kazim’s efforts and agreed with his opinion that we as a Pakistani don’t give such attention to Business page. Reality behind that in most of the cases businessmen paid to Journalists for their own pubicity and fame.Recommend

  • Yasmin Malik, Visiting Lecturer, IBA

    I think Kazim has very rightly pointed out the issues related to good business journalism in Pakistan. Although publications like Business Recorder are wholly focused on the business world, the other dailies while incorporating a “Business” section produce very little analytical or research based articles on Pakistan’s business environment focusing more on “News” rather than in-depth business investigative journalism.

    The Tribune’s Business Section has adopted a more informative look with the inclusion of company review features such as the recent Rozee.pk feature, Shell/Engro features and regular coverage of industry market break-down (e.g. car/meat industry) with supporting graphics nicely executed and laid out.

    However, in-depth business analysis is still not established and perhaps the Tribune’s Business Editor should consider more pieces from industry experts to fill this gap.

    Kazim – a good piece to highlight a genuine problem. Well done!
    Yasmin Malik, Visiting Lecturer, IBARecommend