by Tania Hussain.
Aishah Hasnie, anchor and reporter of FOX59 Indianapolis talks about her passions, experiences and challenges as a journalist, commenting on the similarities and differences in news reporting in the West and the East. Interning at the age of 18 with major network affiliates in Illinois and Indiana, Hasnie interned for GEO-TV in Pakistan where she experienced gender inequality and discovered that most reporters and producers were motivated by the new found freedom of press in Pakistan and had little or no formal journalism education, or a set of journalism standards as a benchmark. Prior to working at FOX59, Hasnie put to use her skills as an investigative reporter with WANE-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana which led to changes in the Indiana legislature’s “voyeurism” law.
February 6, 2014 — Aishah Hasnie is an intrepid young reporter garnering a lot of attention in the news field and making a distinct mark on the future of journalism. Recognized by the Indiana Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists for an investigative story that eventually changed Indiana State laws (see videos on the right), Hasnie is an anchor and reporter at one of the leading Indianapolis news stations in the state.
The 29 year-old Bedford, Indiana inhabitant received her Bachelor of Arts in Broadcast Journalism from Indiana University in 2006 but it wasn’t always simple for the former biology major as she soon realized after a few classes that science wasn’t the right vocation for her, and that her true calling existed within the art of writing.
“I always say journalism found me,” she smiles. “Among the fiction writing and history classes was an Introduction to Journalism course—I really liked it, but I still didn’t think this would be my dream job.”
Hasnie wrote for her college paper and was a professional radio journalist, revealing that she really enjoyed both but shares how television is a very powerful medium with regards to relating to the viewer. “We get to show you the emotion in a story. I get to use not one, but two very powerful senses—sound and sight; to bring the story alive, and that’s what really hooked me,” she says. “As people, we are very visual beings. We connect more with each other when we see the tears and the slight grimace of pain on someone’s face. Radio and newspaper are powerful, but TV is on a whole different level.”
After paying a visit to her cousin in Springfield, Illinois during the summer of her freshman year at IU, Hasnie would find herself in exactly the position she would be today. Hasnie’s cousin, Maira Ansari was a reporter for WICS-TV and the first journalist on her father’s side of the family. Hasnie would join Ansari at work every day, shadowing reporters and photographers. “I would come in at 9 a.m. and wouldn’t leave until 11 p.m. I loved the news business,” she gushes. “Eventually I put together a little feature story for kicks and the News Director loved it so much [that] she put it on air! It was my first taste of a truly magical field.”
Hasnie would soon start her career alongside her cousin at WICS-TV, an ABC News affiliate, as an on-air intern at the age of 18, and later going on to intern at NBC’s WTHR-TV in Indianapolis. It was shortly after those two work experiences that Hasnie interned for GEO-TV in Pakistan and endured a tough set of challenges.
“My time in Pakistan was not easy,” she divulges. “Imagine coming from a country that has enjoyed free press for quite some time and finding yourself in a newsroom that has literally just been built in the last five years. I wanted to pull my hair out every day!”
It’s an evident fact that Pakistani free media is still in the developing stages, with the GEO-TV News network still being in its nascent form when it comes to operations and methods. More often than not it has received a bad reputation for sensationalist media, not to mention the lack of press freedom and gender equality issues, leading inevitably to the emergence of a debate in the country of responsibility of the media and the journalist profession as a whole. That said however, the government in Pakistan is seemingly very willing to let the media do what it must to create challenges and opportunities for journalists.
When Hasnie joined GEO-TV, it was just under five years that the international news network had launched with much of its procedures and ethics still in the works. Hasnie reveals how she was working with reporters and producers that had no background in journalism, nor any journalism degrees and perhaps with the help of a textbook from the bookstore, were learning the ins and outs of the field while on the job.
“I was a 19 year-old intern teaching paid professionals how to write stories,” she says in disbelief. “There were definitely cringe-worthy moments when reporters were inserting their own opinions about the story they were covering.”
With being born in Lahore, Pakistan—the capital of the Punjab province, and a city steeped in cultural heritage and education—Hasnie has had the opportunity to carefully observe the distinct differences between Eastern and Western media cultural values. “There are very different views on broadcasting graphic material such as dead bodies,” she says. “In the western culture, this is a big no-no. We respect the privacy of a victim and his [or] her family by not showing the deceased body. However, eastern media outlets are proponents of airing everything because it better paints reality—death is very real, and there’s no reason to hide atrocities.”