Hosh media is a volunteer based organization led by established journalists and bloggers. It aims to transform Pakistan’s media industry, by empowering and engaging Pakistan’s youth in quality journalism online, and then syndicating their work to established TV, radio and print outlets across the country.
Ali: Can you tell us about yourself? How did your romance with writing/journalism begin?
SH: I began to ride the media wave in Pakistan before breaking news took over the 24/7 news cycle. At Geo News in Islamabad, I reported on the 2005 earthquake, interviewed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, and profiled a human trafficking victim. In 2006, I moved to Karachi to help launch Pakistan’s first English language TV channel, DawnNews. As a producer and later senior duty editor, I managed a team of reporters, copy editors, producers and anchors while setting the day’s headlines and directing coverage of breaking news events. In 2009, I produced the first documentary series on U.S.-Pakistan relations, "The Disposable Ally.” I have also reported for the New York Times in Pakistan.
I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science and economics from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2003. In 2010, I was selected to join the prestigious Knight Fellowship at Stanford University. The program focuses on entrepreneurship, leadership and innovation in journalism and that is where we launched Hosh media in May 2011.
Ali: Why did you feel the need to start such a platform?
SH: Two in three Pakistanis have yet to celebrate their thirtieth birthday. Pakistan is an overwhelmingly young country, yet the youth voice is largely missing from our mainstream media. We at Hosh want to make our media more representative of the majority—the youth—because we believe the more young voices straight from the ground, the more democratic our society will be.
Since internet penetration is only 10 percent in Pakistan, we mentor and work with our contributors to produce quality journalism online, then syndicate their content to mainstream news organisations, so their work can have more reach and impact.
Ali: What is citizen journalism?
SH: In its broadest term, citizen journalism is when individuals without journalism training use the tools of modern technology (Internet and mobile) to create and distribute content.
Ali: Is citizen journalism trustworthy?
SH: All journalism-mainstream and citizen-comes down to credibility. And credibility is rooted in expertise and trustworthiness (established reliability). Just like it takes time for news organizations to establish credibility, it takes time for citizen journalists to establish individual credibility before they are considered trustworthy.
Ali: How do Hosh media work?
SH: Our citizen contributors, we like to call them ‘Hoshyaar’ reporters, they get individualised mentoring from our team of volunteer editors. When Hoshyaar reporters (a mix of bloggers, tweeters, aspiring journalists and amateur photographers) upload news and tips on to our site, www.hoshmedia.org, our team of volunteer editors and producers sift through contributions, curate uploaded stories and eventually mentor and work with individual Hoshyaar members to make their contributions publishable and broadcast-worthy.
Ali: How can platforms like Hosh media impart basic journalistic ethics to them?
SH: At Hosh, we aim to impart journalistic ethics to citizen journalists and mainstream journalists working in Pakistan, because the existing media landscape in the country leaves a lot to be desired. 10 years ago there were no independent news channels, now there are dozens. Frequent bombings and suicide attacks have pushed these inexperienced TV reporters and producers into a dizzying environment of breaking news. In the hectic news environment, organisations struggle to set aside resources and time to train reporters. In response to this challenge Hosh has produced video tutorials available on our site. Our first batch is a six-part series called ‘Crash-course in Journalism’ starring veteran Pakistani journalist Abbas Nasir. In the series he talks about the six sticky subjects or ethical dilemmas journalists in Pakistan now face.
Ali: Due to internet revolution, the world (and media) is just at a transitional point where it’s figuring out what its future holds, what do you think is the future of media in Pakistan?
SH: Mobile. The future of media is mobile. And the future of Pakistan is mobile media. Pakistan is currently the fastest growing mobile market in the world. Soon, ‘smart phones’ will be the only available mobiles in the market and they will also be cheap. The only thing stopping growth in ‘mobile Internet’ in Pakistan has been low data rates. Currently only 4-5 million mobile users have access to Internet through GPRS/EDGE services. But in November, the Prime Minister gave the green light to auction 3G licenses. In 3G services, customers can get data speed of up to 2Mbps, while the highest possible speed in GSM is 50Kpbs and in EDGE is 387Kbps. With in a few years of 3G being available in Pakistan, everyone’s cell phone will have the potential to become a mobile radio, TV and newspaper.
Ali: What message would you like to give to aspiring citizen journalists, bloggers and digital campaigners?
SH: Pakistan faces many problems—a crumbling educational system, corrupt officials, strangulating extremism, intolerance, inflation, a broken health system, chronic injustice, an energy crisis and the list goes on and it will continue to go on if we keep thinking about it alone in our rooms or aloud on our blogs.
We need to build on other people’s ideas and stories; we need to ask questions and experiment with answers, we need to pool our collective experiences and intelligence to truly figure out solutions.
If you are under 30, you are now the majority in Pakistan and have an additional responsibility. Your voice will shape this country. So don’t keep your opinions and thoughts bottled up in your head. The Internet coupled with mobile technology has completely broken all barriers to broadcast oneself. Tell Pakistan and the world what you think. But you need to go beyond the digital space because Internet penetration is still low in Pakistan. So register with Hosh media and let our team give you reach beyond the digital space. And always remember: your voice matters.