in order to encourage our 10 boot camp participants to work on investigative story ideas, we set up a small contest and prize for which they could compete.
Most of the journalists who attended our initial data journalism trainings and the subsequent boot camp did not have investigative reporting experience and were mostly working daily beats or desk shifts. We were hopeful that they would follow the story ideas they discussed and refined during the boot camp but we knew they would struggle to make time given their busy routines.
The participants had around eight weeks to complete their stories. We ended up giving them one more week to send us their entries. To review and judge the stories, we invited eminent journalists with experience of public service investigative and multimedia reporting to be part of the jury. Waqt News special correspondent anchor Matiullah Jan and former Dawn and BBC journalist Amber Rahim Shamsi were kind enough to take time out from their busy schedules and be on the jury.
Our third invitee, senior and highly respected journalist Muhammad Ziauddin, could not join us due to illness. The jury met on Monday to review the stories we had received until Sunday night. The judges graded the stories for public interest, reporting quality, accuracy and fairness, visualisation, writing, and overall impact.
The judges critically read and reviewed the stories. Unfortunately a couple of the stories were not up to standards of reporting held by the jury and the judges did not compromise on quality. In fact, Matiullah Jan felt one story read like an essay and not a news report, at all. The contest boiled down to three stories. One each from Lahore, Peshawar, and Islamabad. In the end, the Lahore participant’s story edged out the Peshawar and Islamabad journalists stories, which were tied on points for second place.
The Lahore participant, Rooba Arooj, won the contest for her story detailing the effects on children of drawn out custody battles in the Punjab family court system, which hears cases of divorce and guardianship. Ms. Arooj, who reports for Nai Baat newspaper in Lahore and its sister TV channel Neo News, collected data from union council marriage annulment registrars and district family courts to compile a six-year snapshot of trends in divorce and guardianship cases for her story. She also interview several parents, children, and experts, including lawyers and psychologists, to complete her reporting of the issue. Her story appeared as a magazine article in the newspaper and a broadcast package and talk show will soon be aired on Neo News. She receives an iPad as her prize, which we hope will have help her improve her multimedia journalism skills.
The second place was shared by reporters Qaiser Khan of Geo News Peshawar and Shehzad Yousafzai of Daily Akhbar-e Khyber. Mr. Khan reported on the state of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa industries that have been adversely affected since strict border control and management on the Pak-Afghan border caused reductions the trade volume between the neighbouring countries. He spoke with owners of small and medium enterprises, labourers, and government officials to determine the full extent of the crisis. His reporting also brought out the fact that Afghanistan is now preferring trade with Iran, India, and Central Asian states. His story has been published on Geo’s website and he also produced and broadcast a news package on Geo News.
Mr. Yousafzai reported on government officials in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa who had struck plea bargain deals with the National Accountability Bureau but were either never removed from service despite paying back embezzled funds to the bureau or retired with pension. Mr. Yousafzai spoke with several goverment departments whose names appeared in the bureau’s plea bargain records and found out that in some cases departments were sometimes unaware that their officers had been accused of embezzlement by the bureau. His story will appear soon on Media for Transparency’s special reports section.
Both journalists receive a book prize with the honourable mentions.
We congratulate our winner and honourable mentions and hope they will continue to work on investigative stories in the future.