Friday, July 15, 2011

Waking up to 'Dawn'

On Friday, July 15th, I woke up a little after the crack of dawn.

I took my students to one of Dawn newspaper’s bureaus located in Islamabad. Dawn is the oldest and one of the few English newspapers in Pakistan. It has four bureaus – Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, and Islamabad – conveniently one in each state. Dawn is headquartered in Karachi, which means all the main news coverage is done there and then sent to other bureaus. And of the four bureaus, only Peshawar does not have its own printing press; its newspapers are also printed in Islamabad.

Overall, the trip was very educational and enjoyable. I learned a lot and the students learned a lot. The purpose of this trip was to allow my students to see firsthand how a newspaper is produced. Through discussion with a journalist and an editor, students gained a new perspective on the responsibilities, hardships, and rewards of committing to journalism. My students had pre-planned questions to ask Ms. Arifa Noor, an editor of the Islamabad metro section. After her short introduction about Dawn’s history and establishment, my students eagerly raised their hands and asked questions. Why is journalism important in your opinion? Why is free press vital for Pakistan’s survival? Saleem Shahzad was a journalist who was killed for telling the truth; should death be a compromise for such a service? What other publications does Dawn produce? Is Dawn censored? Have you ever been bribed?

My favorite part of the trip has to be learning about and seeing the printing press. It’s one thing to produce a newspaper behind a computer screen, but entirely another to see hard work come to life with help of top-notch machinery. It was fascinating to learn about how the very paper we hold in our hands comes into being. In the States, I have been fortunate enough to visit and tour the newsrooms of The Washington Post and The New York Times. But never have I seen a real printing press live and in action. It was such a beautiful sight. So systematic. So sophisticated. So wonderful.

Dawn said that they order their newsprint from Russia and ink from Germany. Did you know that only four colors are used to print a newspaper? Cyan (a shade of blue), magenta, yellow, and key black are enough to make all other colors we see in pictures. EUREKA! So that’s what “CMYK” stands for in PhotoShop and InDesign!

Logistically, I was disappointed with how things were managed. First, the trip was scheduled to promptly depart at 8 a.m. from school, but we did not leave until 8:45 a.m. due to last-minute administrative tasks. Secondly, the schedule I had created for the trip was not followed. I realize that makes me sound anal and inflexible, but actually that’s not the case. It’s completely the opposite. The agenda I had planned—by the hour!—already accounted for the give-and-take moments on the trip, thus making it a very flexible schedule. Simply, we were to depart school at 8 a.m., reach Islamabad by 11 or 11:30 a.m. (it’s about a 3-hour drive from Abbottabad to the capital), have an hour lunch break, and arrive at the Dawn office by 1 p.m.—the time they expected us. We would talk with journalists and tour Dawn until 3 p.m. and then sight see until 4:30 p.m. This would bring us back by 8 p.m. as planned.

I was disappointed and quite agitated when the principal simply demanded us to return by 7 p.m. This meant leaving Islamabad by 3:30 p.m.—an impossibility because after visiting Dawn, I had planned, in my schedule, time to sight-see. Of all the wonderful places to visit and see in our capital, I wanted to at least visit Faisal Musjid. In the end, the dice rolled in my favor. We were done with Dawn by 3:30 p.m. and visited Faisal Mosque. I was stubborn—and why shouldn’t I be? After all, I organized the trip and I should be in charge. Although things didn’t go exactly as planned, it was a wonderful trip regardless.

We were super late on our way back due to a car accident. We reached school shortly after dust.

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