Modern sports journalism: Issues and challenges

LAHORE - Pakistan's former greats and sports journalists assembled here Friday at the Press Institute of Pakistan's Lawrence Road office to discuss issues in contemporary sports journalism in the country. The workshop named "Sports Journalism - its status and requisites" was organised by the Press Institute of Pakistan at its auditorium. The participants included Pakistan former and current administrators, former Olympians, prominent sports writers and office-bearers of the Sports Journalists Association of Lahore. Former Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Khalid Mahmood said that such workshops should be organised regularly. He said journalists should be financially free so that they are able to perform professional duties objectively and honestly. Khalid said journalists should specialise in certain sports. He also asked newspaper owners to fully support journalists. "Until a journalist is financially secure, he cannot report objectively," he said. "My advice to sports journalists is that they should show patience and never misquote in their reports," he said. He also said the journalists should avoid spicing up off-field life of players. Mahmood said: "They (journalists) should raise the issue of sponsorship for the players in such a way that government and corporate community comes to their support," he added. Former Olympian Munir Dar also spoke on the need to specialise in a game. Though he spoke about sports in general, but in the end he pointed out that recently, hockey's loss has been football's gain. "The Pakistan Hockey Federation pushed out Sardar Naveed Haider, a specialised marketing person, but they did not have enough steam in themselves to do what he is now doing for Pakistan football," he said. Dar said that in Pakistan there are to the count six A division teams when in Holland alone 300-plus such teams are operating. The country's current hockey revolves around just 22 players and even they lack cohesion. "We don't find 11 good players of international repute. We have only two players, Rehan Butt and Salman Akbar, who deserve to be included in an international side. During our times, all the nine players were of international repute," he said. "What we need to do is to have at least 10 academies and decide which form of game we intend to play. We need not change the pattern and go for a combination of 3-4-3 and embrace the new style as it has hit us hard," he said. "I used to play with a hockey of Rs 6 only which went up to Rs 22 when my brother and sons joined the sport but now a quality stick costs Rs 3500 and a goal-keeper gear is of Rs 135,000. In such circumstances how can the game flourish," he said. Dar also pointed out the poor performance of Shoaib Akhtar. He also said that if the national hockey team in the present circumstances comes fifth, Pakistan have its money well spent. In his eloquent speech, renowned sports writer Agha Akbar touched a number of issues - from the impact of ubiquitous political uncertainty on sports to lack of professionalism in contemporary sports journalism. "What a pity it is for an editor to find colour and vividness missing from a report from these people (inexperienced journalists) on a match missing when he himself has seen it a day before," he said. He said, "May one ask that in a country where the government has literally abdicated itself of the two things that are mandatory in a civilised dispensation, education and health, why crib about sports at all and why crave for a conducive environment for it?" "Only today with some measure of trepidation I went through a news item that said that the federal budget for sports is likely to be reduced. It already was no big shakes in terms of being anywhere near our requirements, and the further cut reflects that we have learnt little from our miseries and our sense of prioritisation is still far below the common benchmark elsewhere in the world," he added. He said that corporate sector would only come forward to sponsor when they see performance. He said Pakistan's golden period was in 60s and 70s when it was producing champions in every game but sadly the country (and its sports) was hit by a military dictator. "So unless we move towards a more prosperous and a liberal polity where mindset is radically changed to put value in physical and sporting culture, Pakistan would continue to remain a serious under-performer in the world of sports, he added. Speaking on the occasion, Sports Journalists Association of Lahore President Ali Hashami pointed out the problems being faced by journalists. He said that there were times when sports did not have much of a coverage in newspapers and the trend changed when newspapers like The Nation came in the market. Cricket commentator Raja Asad Ali pointed out that commercial sector could help sportsmen a lot. He bemoaned the presence of inefficient officials in federations. Director PIP Absar Abdul Ali said that life is incomplete without sports. "Journalists' first priority is to follow truth and objectivity. We here at the PIP are working to enhance the abilities of journalists by holding seminars and workshops so that they could present the real picture," said he.

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