Maria Memon: My parents always wanted me to either become a doctor or an engineer, since these are the two most respected and profitable careers in Pakistan. Becoming a doctor was what was planted in my head and I also considered it a good choice since it’s a classic career choice for females in our country. Thank God, despite being an A grade student, I never got through the test to medical school, and flunking it landed me into an engineering college. In 2005, I graduated as a Software Engineer and it was during that period, I got inspired from my ‘communication skills professor’, who encouraged me to polish my public speaking skills. After graduation, I worked as an HR consultant and later joined Geo TV, Pakistan’s largest viewed network in 2008. After that, as they say, the rest is history.
SocialExcerpts: When did you realize you wanted to be a journalist?
Maria Memon: I am truly ‘Destiny’s child’. I didn’t choose journalism, in fact, journalism chose me. ‘Software Engineer’ to ‘HR consultant’ and eventually a ‘Journalist’, the transition was gradual but unplanned. Four years ago, I joined Geo TV as a program coordinator, but thankfully, for me, the project I was assigned got shelved. My management shifted me to the news room and thus began my journey as an anchor/reporter. I always knew that I wanted to make a difference, and my employers provided me the perfect platform to reach out to millions of people and raise awareness about the burning issues of our society.
SocialExcerpts: What do you consider your greatest professional achievement till now?
Maria Memon: “Achievement” is a very relevant concept. I thank my lucky stars for the early break in my professional career. However, making the most out of the opportunities coming your way is real hard work. I am not too ambitious; I just set small goals and then put my heart and soul to achieve them. Apart from being a known face on the most watched network in Pakistan, one of the high points of my life was being selected as a CNN Journalism fellow in 2011. I was handpicked by GEO TV to represent them in Atlanta, Georgia in 2011. My area of interest included social and human interest issues. I can proudly say that through my stories, funds have been raised for poor unwell kids, schools and for flood relief activities. Call that ‘achievement’ if you want.
SocialExcerpts: Tell us something about your work.
Maria Memon: In four years of my journalistic career I have done hands on field reporting on sports as well as extensive reporting on bomb blasts and humanitarian issues. I haven’t been bound to the largest province of Pakistan i.e. Punjab, but have also covered the Swat operation in 2009 in the Khyber Pakhtun Khwa Province. My trip to KPK took me to the IDP camps in Mardan, whereas in 2010, I covered post flood humanitarian crisis in Swat as well. I have conducted live infield bulletins from Data Darbar and Model Town sites, which were bombed by the terrorist in Lahore in 2010. I had the privilege of covering the blasts in the Prime Time bulletin from the damaged site as an anchor. Apart from that, I used to co-host a two-hour long weekend morning show known as ‘Geo Pakistan’ every Saturday and Sunday. The show not only covered socio-political issues, but went on to successfully complete over 100 episodes. Recently, I have taken up the role of host of the popular ‘Mere Mutabiq’ program which is of half an hour duration and aired twice a week (Every Saturday and Sunday). If you ask me about my short term future goal, it would definitely be to increase my knowledge by studying abroad, possibly getting a degree in International relations.
SocialExcerpts: If you had the power to change something in your country/your job right now, what would you change?
Maria Memon: Lack of education is the root of all problems in my country. If given the power to bring about a change, I would immediately declare an ‘education emergency’. Also I would devise an educational policy that would focus more on the small towns and rural areas, since people don’t have a direction in the rural areas. The prime objective would be to bring the children from the rural areas and small towns at par with the kids in big cities. Also curriculum being taught in Pakistani schools is in dire need of an upgrade, and if I could get a chance to bring a change, I would be honored to do so.
SocialExcerpts: How active are you on social media platforms?
Maria Memon: I would say I am proactive on social media. I spend a considerable time of my day on Facebook and Twitter.
SocialExcerpts: Do you think building a mass-movement or creating awarness about social-work is possible through social channels in the place you live?
Maria Memon: Absolutely. Pakistan is a young country and youth in urban areas is quite active on the social media platforms. Social Media is not just a medium of casual chit chat with friends but serious businesses are being run through FB. Pakistan faced its worst humanitarian crisis last year, and post flood relief activities were organized mainly through the social media. Campaigns like ‘Go Green Pakistan’, ‘Zimmedar Shehri’, laced with the message of social activism were founded on FB. Pakistani women are also reaping the benefits of Social media while young women entrepreneurs are running their businesses through FB.
SocialExcerpts: How do you think something like Twitter/Facebook can help you ahcieve something that you’re already trying to do ?
Maria Memon: My work is all about getting the word out, raising awareness about issues. Twitter and Facebook are like the eyes and ears as well as the mouthpiece for all the journalists nowadays. I have to admit that I am a borderline twitterholic. My day starts with Twitter as it a one-stop shop for all the news and analysis on current affairs.
SocialExcerpts: Any particularly interesting project/research that you’re currently working on?
Maria Memon: Yeah, I am uber excited about a project I am working on nowadays. The project is in the pipeline, currently going through the research phase. Will disclose details once everything is finalized.
SocialExcerpts: What is most common compliment you receive on social platforms (Twitter/Facebook.. etc) ?
Maria Memon: I engage the audience of my show through my twitter and FB accounts. Twitter correspondence serves as an integral part for research of my show. Once a social media trainer cited me as an example, while referring to journalism and use of social media. I’ll take that as a compliment.
SocialExcerpts: Any advice to budding social media enthusiasts looking to have a career in journalism?
Maria Memon: With overflow of information because of the web and social media, at times it is challenging to sift grain from the chaff. Social media plays an instrumental role in information gathering, but the trick is to verify your information from multiple sources before you publish anything.
Next interview in line, is India’s Mr. Popular, the known-to-all talented actor Abhishek Bachchan. He debuted with J.P. Dutta’s “Refugee” (2000) and is now one of the leading actors in Bollywood! Watch this space.