How much is the impact of our newspaper on the general mass of the people? During the general elections of December 1970, a large number of widely-circulated dailies, offered strong opposition to the Pakistan Peoples Party but the election results showed that newspaper- readers had voted according to the call of their own conscience and cared little for the lead given by the bulk of the press. Apart from elections in which other factors too are present, the people do receive the impact of newspapers. The press is capable of creating widespread unrest, acceleration in the process of development, and promoting new ideas, however, there is a certain amount of credibility gap between the press and society.

This is because, with the advent of new regimes, most of the newspaper made a quick change in policy and readers know as to why the change occurs so soon. That is because the largest group of newspapers is owned by the Government controlled National Press Trust (till 1985), and the other major groups are owned by vested interests that could not afford to toe a different line. That has often given way to the controversy as to whether the press is an industry or a mission. The truth lies in between the two.

Certainly, the press in Pakistan is an industry as it cannot thrive without heavy investment and a strong motive of earning profit but at the same time it is a mission for it is not confined to supply the commodity of news alone but also explains and interprets news and supplies guidelines for moulding public opinion. The very existence of the press depends upon public approval and that too on a day-to-day basis, Thus it is vitally different from industries producing consumer goods.

Often another question is posed for discussion as to whether the press influences society or society influences the press or in other words whether the press should guide public opinion or mirror it. This too cannot be answered in a categorical fashion. Here too the truth lies in the middle. The press has in the first instance to mirror public opinion because without that guidance is impossible.

If a newspaper only mirrors public opinion and follows the same, it could become a weather-cock which, of coulrse, is not the way of a good newspaper. Again the press does influence society in many directions but it has also to accept the influence of society and as a result it moulds itself in accordance with that as we have already pointed out that its existence depends on public approval. Therefore, if the press indulges in cheap tactics by giving news’ of crime and sex, movie gossip, scandal and several other things, it is because the people desire these things.