A journey for change with Humphrey at ASU!

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<Washington Post Video journalist Elyse Samuels after a session with OSINT class in February>

In February 2019, I was honored with the ‘best use of data’ in Pakistan Data Journalism Awards. At the time, I had recently transitioned from an eight-year tenure in print journalism to a role as an investigative reporter in television. It was a crucial moment as I realized that the patterns and means of reporting are changing and the coming—a future intertwined with technology. Despite the desire to advance my expertise, the uncertain political climate offers little room for creative exploration or professional development.

It wasn’t until in 2022, during Chevening’s fellowship for south Asian journalists in England made me realize again that I need to step up before it is too late. My concern extended beyond my personal growth to the broader journalistic community, particularly the emerging and upcoming journalists who faced an industry disinterested in digital journalism.

Our universities and academia have hardly any connection so the students are clean slate when the graduate and learn everything on their own only when they enter the field. I had applied for the Humphrey Fellowship earlier but the year 2022 was different where clarity of goal and becoming the agent of change for the country were few solid reasons that clicked because the idea was unique and impressive, in implemented in letter and spirit.

Now I am at Arizona State University‘s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. I am on my way to make the plan into work. Equipping myself with latest nuances of digital journalism and open-source intelligence and simultaneously working on a proposal document for higher education sector for introduction of cutting-edge curriculum in digital journalism and latest practices in Pakistani universities. While I am going through the final leg of this fellowship, I personally feel the journey thus far has been dotted with learning, exposure and an ending where one has a sense of accomplishment, pride and richness.

We had multimedia journalism class in the first semester alongside a mini fellowship at local TV 12 News. Learning nuances of digital journalism and witnessing its practical implementation in a newsroom has been more than a learning experience. A media school in United States is not just a degree awarding institution but a center for hands-on learning, exposure to latest technology and supervision of professional teachers where majority had or are currently aligned with media house(s).

ASU is a teaching school where you not only learn in classroom but also able to produce high quality work in a real-life newsroom and gets it published in well-known print and broadcast news organization, effectively blurring the lines between student and journalist. Hence you are a student yet you also work as a journalist working on stories and produce them as per the requirement. Howard Centre for Investigative Journalism is another feather in the cap of this school where those who have investigative niche can up their game at national level.

In my multimedia class I learned multiple skills besides editing audios, videos and images where as part of our final project we had to create a complete multimedia story and use all the modern-day reporter’s toolkit to produce a digital story. From working on Search Engine Optimizations (SEOs) to including data, graph and charts in an investigative story to putting podcast and google maps, we were made to go through all the phases a reporter will go for a full-fledged story. Result: everyone came up with a comprehensive digital story and ended the semester with higher learning curve. In Second semester we learned the use of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) for verification and investigations in journalism. Also, how Artificial Intelligence can be enormously useful for verification, analysis and digging deep.

As part of my IPP or a personal project, I am studying the digital media journalism and related courses of Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and Hussmann School of Journalism and Media at University of North Carolina. The purpose is to take the key courses like multimedia journalism/storytelling; video journalism; social media—insights, analytics and management; OSINT; AI; personal branding and professional development and digital content creation.
The key is to formulate a proposal based on these courses with an objective to initiate latest journalistic practices in the universities and make them learning schools. I intend to present this proposal to the curriculum committee of higher education sector (HEC) and explain them how the latter implement it without extra ordinary effort.

<An initial blueprint of the proposed course for digital media of Pakistani universities.>

The idea is to persuade HEC for introduction of practical courses that has direct impact on journalism of the country and in the long run leads to accountability which plays role for introduction democratic norms, merit and responsibility in institutions. Also, the takeaway is to make universities a place where students learn to practice and when they graduate, they are not only industry-ready but also equipped to thrive as independent, technologically adept journalists. And that the graduate knows how to become self-reliant and even becomes a freelance reporter with know-how of up-to-date technology even without role and support of corporate media houses.

The urge to have understanding of such topics could be gauged from the fact that a group of Pakistani journalists in February came on a State-Department sponsored tour. I happened to share the skills of OSINT and use of AI in journalism. They were in awe of what they did not know and how helpful such skills could be in investigative journalism in an age where world is fraught with misinformation and disinformation.

<Humphrey fellow Riazul Haq is conducting an OSINT and AI workshop with Pakistani journalists who are visiting ASU for the IVLP program of the U.S. Department of State in February 2024.>

My ultimate vision is to establish a precedent in Pakistani journalism that reflects United States—where robust journalistic principles, quality reporting are foundational. In a nation of approximately 230 million, the transformative power of journalism, underpinned by technological fluency, can pave the way for success, prosperity, and democratic progress.

About Riaz Haq

Riaz Haq is an award-winning investigative journalist based in Islamabad, Pakistan. With over 13 years of experience in several leading newspapers, including The Express Tribune (an affiliate of The New York Times) and the Dawn media group, he has become an expert in governance, human rights, government accountability reporting, and data-driven investigations. In recognition of his work on human trafficking, Riaz received an award for Best Use of Data in an Investigative Story. He holds a Master’s degree and has been the recipient of prestigious fellowships such as the Chevening Scholarship from the United Kingdom. As a media and journalism lecturer at top universities in Islamabad, he is eager to gain hands-on experience in digital journalism, investigative journalism, leadership, and teaching skills at ASU, which he can bring back to his fellow citizens in Pakistan.

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