Syed Irfan Ashraf won the presitigous Mirror Award for an article written about Malala Yousafzai in Pique in November 2012. He writes about his experience of getting the award and reflects on the state of journalism.
In a packed hall of about 600 media professionals, I was privileged to receive the prestigious Mirror Award, which was organized by the Syracuse University on the 5th of June in New York.
Being first from Pakistan in the short history of the award to independently win Best Commentary in Traditional Media category was indeed an honour. But it was no less of a surprise to find that other finalists of the competition in my category were reputed journalists from elite U.S. newspapers including The Time, USA Today, American Journalism Review, Washington Post and The Nation.
Being a teacher and student of Journalism, I have always sketched a pessimistic view of journalism in my articles. I usually believe that Journalism is passing through an era of conceptual crisis. Reflexivity and critique are no more the respected attributes of the media industry because both have fallen victims to the corporate model of mass communication. Therefore, if quality journalism, which we once enjoyed in print media, is losing to financial slump in global market, the flippant layer of myths and misconception has overwhelmed electronic journalism. And this is visible in electronic media programs, where accessibility to a large number of people is the only criteria left for recognition. Therefore, today we have got TV celebrities and their increasing public-reach due to technological advancement, but dept, variety and reflexivity have lost to repetition and superficiality.
The late Columbia University professor James Carey explained this issue in a more articulate way when he says, “the problem is that you see journalism disappearing inside the larger world of communication. What you learn to do is to recover journalism from that larger world.” In other words, the crisis of our culture, and our journalism, is a crisis of conviction, which has scratched from the media landscape its vital attributes of thorough and investigative touch.
But this pessimistic view of mine does not apply everywhere. I started writing for Pique magazine after it was launched in 2011. I have always been encouraged by their staff to publish critical pieces of writing. That is why I hold Pique magazine in high esteem as vital outlet, which not only published my articles but also kept my hopes alive in quality journalism. Winning award in the best commentary traditional media category is one manifestation of this hope.