Pakistani media is lazy and complacent. Not entirely, of course, but to a large extent. Its approach towards stories pertaining to social issues in particular, reveals a pattern which is religiously followed by everyone. Take the recent story involving the murder of two children at the hands of their own mother. A glance at the newspapers gives the impression that it’s a fairly obvious case: it’s a poor Pakistani family struggling to make ends meet. Mother loves her children very much. Non-availability of food leaves her with no choice but to strangle one and drown the other. Father is an unemployed drug addict. Oh thank God, the father is a drug addict. Now it makes perfect sense. So easy, so simple. Rather too easy and too simple. But never mind that, as long as it fits a larger narrative and strikes a chord with the average reader.

“Killed children because of poverty” is the murderer’s version of the story. It may or may not be true. But as far as the news reports are concerned, the judgment has already been passed. Forget the content, the headlines alone present unverified conclusions. The story has been reported without any distinction between established facts and theories. Reports start with the mention of the horrific incident and end with a statement from a government official expressing resolve to alleviate masses from the depths of poverty. In 800 words, we successfully determine the cause of the incident before anyone else, forcibly fit the event in some relatable narrative, and all this, at the cost of dehumanizing the people involved for those reading at home. Suddenly, it’s not about the dead children. It’s not about the mother’s state of mind. It’s about the poverty stricken masses of Pakistan. Who wouldn’t get behind something like that?

The simple fact is that objective reporting can only be ensured if each case is treated separately and carefully examined. There is a need to overcome the obsession with providing ‘the final answer’ and presenting each and everything as part of a larger picture. It’s good business, but poor journalism. By following this trend, we promote sensationalism and condone oversimplification of issues as per demand. One of the reasons why Mr Imran Khan’s ‘drone theory’ became such a hit is because it was so simple and straightforward, much to the delight of mainstream media, which likes it just the way it was served. No matter how hard we try to discredit it now, the damage has been done. Did the woman kill her children because they were unfed for three days? Did a family quarrel lead to this? Or perhaps some psychological illness? We don’t know yet.