What makes a story? The incident alone, events leading to the incident, developments that follow including the fate of victims and culprits or all of it? Media in Pakistan – print and electronic – seems to believe that reporting on the incident alone is sufficient. Take attacks on the Shia community, for example. Little or no effort is made to explain underlying causes or to track the progress, if any, made into investigations. It is easy to find reports and packages related to incidents that routinely occur across the country. They provide information regarding the location, the kind of explosives or weapons that have been used, the number of injured and dead, and may even identify culprits who either claim responsibility or are deemed responsible by law enforcement agencies. But, that’s where it all stops. The media isn’t just a messenger, it is supposed to be much more than that. In any democracy, the media has a crucial role to play in holding individuals and institutions accountable. How can it be expected to perform that function if it doesn’t track progress? The media has the right to blame the state for being forgetful, uninterested and distracted, but some introspection will reveal that it is guilty of the same. It can point out that the state doesn’t follow up, but does the media? Why is that?

Unfortunately, Pakistan is a very happening place. The media is never starved for news. If anything, there is too much of it. Breaking news takes precedence over everything else. They keep coming. When they don’t, the media makes something up. Why? It’s too easy and it sells better than anything else. When those two big words flash before our eyes, we put down the remote and lean forward to take in what is being offered. The anchor is telling you that this breaking news is extremely important. Why would he/she be so loud if it wasn’t? Sometimes, it’s disappointing. Sometimes, it’s not. But it’s unavoidable every time. The media knows the audience too well, and the audience doesn’t understand the media at all. Businesses – media or otherwise – do what’s good for them. People love what harms them. It’s a perfect relationship. Why track that old story when there is an abundance of fresh, exciting material? Why go looking for answers when people aren’t really asking any questions? Did the LEAs ever catch those responsible for the Abbas Town bombing? Who knows, who cares. Just look at what’s going on in Peshawar right now, and somewhere else tomorrow.