It was the year 2011 and I was in the first year of graduate school. I had returned to the classroom after six years working in the newsroom in Karachi, Pakistan. There were many who told me I was wasting my time studying journalism. “You learn on the field,” they said. They were right about that for sure. But what they missed is, that’s not the only place you learn.
The graduate program at Emerson was like a lens bringing my journalistic vision into sharper focus. It helped introduce me to basic rules and tools that can sometimes get missed in real world deadlines and pressures. It’s an opportunity to learn and work with educators who have seen the industry from different perspectives, and through changing times.
But going to graduate school can be expensive. And in that year 2011, and even after receiving a Presidential Fellowship from the college, I was looking for funding to complete my Master’s. My professors told me about RTDNF scholarships. I applied and was awarded the Abe Schechter Graduate Scholarship. That scholarship helped me get to the finish line, which I did with distinction, being chosen as the speaker at the graduate commencement.
Returning to Pakistan with a Master’s in Broadcast Journalism opened a host of avenues for me. My newsroom experience, now combined with a higher academic degree, got me a faculty position at a prestigious local university. While teaching, I took part in active media projects, consulting and producing TV on the side. I got a chance to work for BBC Media Action to produce a series of talk shows recorded at historic locations across the country. The shows had a strong focus on giving a voice to people and the issues facing them, and were driven solely by audience questions.
While working at the university, we applied for a three-year US State Department grant to set up a training centre for professional journalists in Pakistan. I served as the program director of the multi-million dollar grant to launch the centre along with Northwestern University, Chicago and ICFJ (International Centre For Journalists), Washington D.C. What started as a desk in a forgotten room of the campus, turned into a state of the art studio, newsroom and training space. In its first year the Centre trained more than 100 journalists and hosted American journalists to report from Pakistan. I never thought this could be a direction for my career. But with each workshop and course, in a market deprived of such training, my work felt needed and meaningful. On the university’s end, we worked with the social sciences department to launch a Master’s in journalism by the end of the grant, to make the centre sustainable. The program and the centre are now fully functional and an active part of Pakistan’s journalistic scene.
It is my Master’s degree that allowed me to qualify for a skill based immigration program to Canada. For the last year and a half, I have been working in an innovative news department at Global News in Toronto. The Multi-Market Content Department received RTDNA’s Edward R. Murrow award for Excellence in Innovation in 2017. The department is focused on the future of TV journalism, and combines creativity, skill and editorial excellence in the face of changing markets and audiences. I believe skills I learnt both on the field and in the classroom, trained me to be a part of this challenging team and I am proud of the journey that has brought me here.
RTDNF’s belief in my skill and passion in that year of 2011 will always be remembered and cherished by me. It is through support like this that I believe I was able to go on my journey and gather experiences to fuel a lifetime. I am proud to remain connected to the organization, and look forward to many more interactions.
The Schechter Scholarship fund has closed, but RTDNF currently offers 4 fellowships for graduate students and new professionals as well as 8 scholarships for undergraduates. All awards include the opportunity to attend the annual national conference. The next application deadline is January 17.