January issue 2014

By | Fashion | People | Published 10 years ago

In the quaint Koel Café, I meet one of Geo News’s rising stars, Maria Memon, for a late afternoon lunch. The diminutive and poised broadcaster carries herself with an infectious mix of confidence, energy and drive.

A software engineer by profession, Memon took a giant leap of faith when the opportunity to join Geo English as a coordinator for Najam Sethi’s show came, by sending her CV online. She was interviewed and hired. That marked the turning point in Memon’s career. But the project got shelved before it was even launched.  Subsequently, Memon was offered a position as a field reporter for Geo. Reluctant at first because of her inexperience in field reporting, Memon trusted her mentors, whom she gives the most credit for her quick ascent to success, and went ahead with the new job at hand. “You can not afford to miss balls, you have to hit sixes,” she says.

Her hard work and enthusiasm paid off; she received an offer to host her own show and, eventually, made it as a regular news anchor for Geo. Says Memon’s colleague and sports reporter, Faizan Lakhani,  “From being a sports reporter to a morning show host to a political show host to a prime-time news anchor — Maria has grown by leaps and bounds.”

Born to a military family, Memon draws inspiration from the empowered women in her life, particularly her grandmother, who instilled in her the value of education. An avid reader, Memon’s current reading list includesIndian Summer and the works of Manto.

A self-proclaimed ‘twitterholic’ as well, with 100,000 plus Twitter followers, Memon says she does not feel pressured to conduct herself as a role-model. But yes, she aims to change the perception about women in the media. “Being a news anchor is not all about glamour and fame, as anchors are required to be quick on their feet and be equipped with information. Moreover, women have to work twice as hard.” However, she does not attribute the absence of women in the executive echelons of power to sexism or discrimination. She says women have the tendency to change their priorities along the way and the positions are left for men to fill — a trend she hopes will change in the years to come, as she believes that women bring more dimension to news broadcasting: “Women are more honest and they are more empathetic.”

Asked about her most memorable work experience to date, she recalls her three-month-long trip to the United States for a mini-documentary she was shooting for her network: “We had to do five different states, in three time zones, in three months, and that was like forty interviews in fifty-five days. It was a roller-coaster journey. The task was even more challenging and memorable since I was the only girl in the team with a bunch of boys.”

Memon clearly does not back down from any challenge thrown her way. Another challenging aspect of her job is detaching her emotions from the news, but she admits that some news does get to her. She vividly remembers the case of Rimsha Masih, the young girl accused of blasphemy in Islamabad and her subsequent jubilation upon having to break the news that the girl was, in fact, framed by a local mullah. She also felt strongly for Malala and got herself into numerous heated arguments online and in real life over her.

Maria Memon is, indeed, the face of the contemporary media — approachable, relevant and at one with the people.

This profile was originally published in Newsline’s January 2014 issue under the headline, “The Media’s Darling.”