An intelligent reader can discern the strategy of a newspaper by looking at the front page. English dailies DAWN, Pakistan Today, The News, Business Recorder & The Nation – all have different strategies hence follow different formats. I like DAWN best because of its non-sensational matter of fact sort of approach and above all due to its unmatched credibility. DAWN’s classifieds particularly the vacancy advertisements also appeal me because it gives me insight to different organizations and as a management trainer & consultant it is imperative for me to keep a tap on domestic corporate world. Urdu daily Jang’s classified pages is the widely opted mode of communication, on the basis of results and effectiveness, to buy or sell second-hand cars, furniture, equipment, computer accessories and cellular (mobile) phones etc.
Pakistani newspapers are reasonably doing a good job, however there are some low-cost common-sense solutions which may be taken into account to promote the circulation of newspapers. It is by no means to recommend customization of newspapers as per my own choice; rather this is to re-emphasize the need for customer-focused approach in media.
First, I want to see Sikh calendar dates apart from Islamic & Julian calendar dates on the front page. Punjab is the most populous province and seasons are commemorated in line with the Sikh calendar months i.e., Sawan, Asu & Katik etc., in most of the areas. Search on the net and you will find it extremely difficult to verify what month is it according to Sikh calendar. One can understand why Sikh calendar dates are not given, but the rationale doesn’t seem logical.
It would be useful also to add daily weather forecast with advice for the readers. I follow the online BBC weather
forecast; however, I have noticed lately that BBC’s forecast mostly show rainy days even if it rains for five minutes. We cannot label the entire day just on the basis of a weather condition which prevails only for five minutes. BBC weather page gives accurate forecast of temperature and rain, however, it has some more limitations. Only few locations are covered under this service also sometimes one has to look at different timings in a day like morning, afternoon, evening & night-time which is missing on BBC. In this regard, http://www.weathercity.com is a very useful site. Some of the local newspapers add weather forecast but they do not provide for any advice to their readers i.e., what to wear and whether to take along umbrella or not etc.
Though difficult to implement, the newspapers should dedicate some space for announcements by public civil works departments to avoid inconvenience to commuters as it often results in a traffic jam. It happens so frequently that you follow a road and little close to the end of the journey you come to know the road is closed for repair and maintenance and you now have to take a long detour. Coordination between electricity, water, telephone, sewerage and gas departments is a long pending need of the people. Online editions of the newspapers can easily adopt this service by developing an interactive webpage to cater for this problem.
One of my major issues with newspapers is late placement of sports news. For instance Rafael Nadal won ATP Barcelona clay-court title yesterday and the final match was telecast live on sports channels but most of the newspapers will break this news in their tomorrow or day after tomorrow editions. Not fair at all. Cricket is not the only game in this world. In fact youngsters are switching over to football & tennis due to prevalent corruption in Cricket.
Schedules of different events, flights, trains service, fairs & exhibitions should also be given in newspaper. For instance there is annual industrial exhibition going on in Islamabad but many people in vicinity places like Rawalpindi, Rawat, Taxila & Wah etc., do not know about it.
Economic & financial news are not read with much interest by people who find it difficult to understand business jargon. For example our energy supply chain is facing a huge problem of inter-corporate circular debt but even people with business background do not understand how it has surfaced and what its implications for a common man are. I have observed in many newspapers, it is assumed by writers that people already know what inter-corporate circular debt is. Other examples are devolution of HEC and notorious US’s sub-prime crisis. It is important to make people first understand the concept with the help of a model, example or illustration so that people find it convenient to read along and associate with the issue.
Many newspapers leave their readers high and casino online dry by poorly developing the back-drop of story. How can readers indulge without understanding the context? For instance if a non-Muslim politician is assassinated in the name of religion then something should be written about his political stances, ideology and past life so that people should at least read between the lines.
Pakistan is facing acute gas shortage problem due to which economies of scale can’t be achieved in commercial operations and living too has become exceedingly expensive. So naturally I want to know how much is the demand-supply gap and how much is the gas short-fall. I want to know how much are gas indigenous reserves, but unfortunately
newspapers do not give answer to these questions in plain English. Another folly is that some newspapers report gas demand-supply making past years as base years i.e., 2007 is the base year, hence relying on obsolete data. There is no uniformity in the use of units as some report units in million cubic feet per day (mmcfd) and some million tonnes of oil equivalent (MTOE) and yet some in trillion cubic feet (TCF) which leads to confusion. Moreover, readers need to be informed what MTOE or mmcfd actually means!
Recently DAWN (my favorite) published a sensational news that Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) has been ranked as world’s 69th university in Engineering & Technology category (http://www.dawn.com/2011/04/12/qau-ranked-worlds-69th-best-varsity.html) It was simply a typographic error by the ranking website which was promptly endorsed by the varsity Vice Chancellor, as there is no faculty of engineering & technology in QAU which is a general university. Moreover, how can QAU reach 69th rank this year when it was not even in 200 top universities last year? DAWN did
not publish corrigendum and the confusion still exists. It is also a mystery how they arrived at the number 69 J QAU is no doubt a reputable institution and is ranked number one
by HEC. I wish the international ranking news was true as I am a QAU graduate myself!