ACCORDING to the late American journalist John Gunther, the first essence of journalism is to know what you want to know and the second is to find out who’ll tell you.
Most journalists working in the Gulf region know what they want to know, but the biggest challenge for them is to find out who’ll tell them!
Forget investigative journalism or reporting on sensitive topics, even simple information like how much money is paid to a professional footballer isn’t often available, making the life of a journalist very difficult.
However, things are improving, albeit slowly, but considering the progress the country has achieved in other areas, the media scene still leaves a lot to be desired.
In the absence of clear-cut guidelines, editors of various publications have been following some sort of self-imposed restrictions, treating certain subjects as taboo. But the winds of change are sweeping across the region. Yet, linguistic and cultural barriers still work as a deterrent against smooth flow of information though most new-generation nationals have multi-lingual proficiency.
Having said that, most sports officials are still wary of revealing information to the local media, whom they seldom value. Whether it’s a case of familiarity leading to contempt or not, the foreign media, especially with big brand names, are welcomed and treated with more respect!
Of course, there’re public relations experts masquerading as journalists. And most officials prefer them to professional journalists, who’ll obviously handle the subject only objectively.
A recent study by Reuters Institute said, “Public Relations and journalism have had a difficult relationship for over a century, characterised by mutual dependence and often mutual distrust. In recent years, developments in corporate public relations and in political communications mean news media outlets are less important to the persuaders. The communications business is often able to bypass the gatekeepers.
“Internet, especially social media, has made reputation more precarious, but it has also given companies, governments and public figures channels of communication of their own. The need to proclaim and protect the brand (personal, corporate or political) means public relations is now a top-table profession while journalism struggles for survival.”
I think this rings true in the Gulf region as well.