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Sakmongkol ak 47

ariff.sabri@gmail.com

Friday, 19 February 2010

Those halcyon days


One of the websites I am always keen to read up is Uppercaise's Malaysian Media Matters. I don't know his identity. He/she seems to be a very meticulous individual with impeccable English. I will use the gender he. I think he entered into one of my earlier articles disturbed by my carelessness in inserting commas or punctuation or something. The blogger reminds me of some very good English Language teachers I have had. He loves the language tremendously.
More recently, he has written a number of articles on the state of the New Straits Times. In particular, about what he perceived to be the declining standard of NST. The quality of language, the contents and of course readers' allegiance. I too, have wanted to write about my perceptions of NST.
One of the earliest and cheapest sources of learning the English language in the old days was the Straits Times and later the New Straits Times. If I remember correctly, the straits Times then cost 15 sen. Those guys at ST were probably not aware of ST being the English Language text book for poorer students in the East Coast. I would usually devour the editorials- because that's my principle source of good written English.
Those were the days my friend- when editorials were written by editors with excellent English and had depth in their analyses. Editors were courageous people, well read and were convincing in their arguments. They had belief in issues they picked up. Reporters did their jobs with professional accountability- meaning they exercised great care and took responsibility  over the integrity of their reports. Journalism was a calling.
Those editors whom I never knew or could remember during my younger days, I suspect were mainly Malaysian Indians. They have either passed on or retired since.
Maybe my faith in them was also strengthened because like readers of my age then, we were young and impressionable. If I were to read those backdated issues, I would perhaps assess them differently. In addition, the 'class above' assessment of the old school was also helped by the fact that flow of information direction then was one way- it wasn't interactive.
We had to accept what were written. They were conclusive and definitive. Letters to the editors were obviously filtered such that only those palatable ones were let through. There was no way of knowing the real substance of journalism luminaries then. Perhaps they were just myths.
Nowadays it's different.
One, perhaps there has been a real decline in the substance of the material at NST. Not nice to say, but maybe true.
Two, times are also different. We now have the internet and the growing relevance of the new media. Traditional journalism represented by the 4th estate is facing stiff and energetic competition. The overall effect of the new media is to expose not only the vulnerability of the 4th estate should it be dominated by paper tigers- but also mercilessly reveal the superficialities and hollowness of editors, run of the mill reporters and other sub standard material.
Suddenly the comforts of protection and exclusivity of the 4th estate are no longer there. The public have standard of comparisons. More importantly they have choices.
The most important effect of the new media in my opinion is the destruction of the monopoly by the media by 4th estaters. Anyone with a flair of writing, not even trained in journalistic skills and have something to say can now publish their thoughts in space.
We are equal netizens in cyber-democracy distinguishable and differentiated by the thinking we put across and our diligence in arguing and defending them. We are differentiated by our substance.
It's the quality of contents that have proven to be NST's Achilles heel. Its suffering a long draught made worse by the re-emergence of the journalistic undead. Those kicked out by previous regimes because they were in fact, mediocre are making comebacks.
I have long wanted to make comments on the NST in recent years. I have friends who were associated with NST and perhaps that was the main reason why I held back. I have not read NST for a long time- because I want to retrain myself from opening the Pandora's jar. But you can't turn your back on a Paper that has given you good memories.
If it were to be opened, I am afraid I will be disappointed because nothing of interest lies therein that could excite our imagination or challenge our intellect. The NST people will insist that there is hope in there. We the readers know, that for quite some time, when the jar is opened, only terrible things wreaked on our senses.
So I called a friend, a former journalist. Told him, I want to write something about NST- its state of retrogression. He of course was aghast. After all, it was his playground before and who am I, just a plebeian reader to take on the warriors of the 4th estate.
Well, I said, the immediate term that comes to my mind if I were to describe the present NST, it's a big waste land- much like the foreboding poems written by TS Eliot. The Paper stirs up gloom. It has no leadership. It is struggling to find an identity.
It's a wasteland; I said because that is where the undead journalists go to renew their miserable existence. Where else can any rejects, come back to have second leases of life? I thought these things happened only in politics. The NST wasteland makes the barren land of politics look fresh in comparison.
How would I describe the editorials nowadays? They are languid and turbid. The standard is like essays written by school children more concerned with scoring the right marks. They seem hesitant, unwilling to take positions, argue and defend issues. Editorials may not be right but they must exhibit commitment and loyalty to a cause.
As a not frequent reader of NST, I am also not unaware of the politics in NST. The state of NST now, is perhaps best summed up by the pointers given by uppercaise.
10 good things about an NST revamps

  1. It's a way to spend company money by rewarding friends in the marketing business with nice little contracts.
  2. It's a way to create a fake excitement in a bored newsroom, but mostly among ambitious executives.
  3. It's a way for corporate tigers to keep busy rushing around bossing everyone.
  4. It's a way for under-employed executives to suddenly turn "creative" with plenty of "new" ideas stolen from around the world
  5. It's a way to build or temporarily burnish an ailing reputation and find some short-term glory in "turning around an ailing newspaper".
  6. It's a way for corporate management to show the owners that Something Is Being Done.
  7. It's a way for Marketing to bully Editorial by blaming editorial shortcomings for loss of sales.
  8. It's a way for politico-mercenary executives to shift attention away from the real ills of the paper or company.
  9. It's a way to have fun and spend other people's money without actually having to do anything.
  10. It's a way to give graphic designers a chance to dust-off designs languishing in their drawers.
It might even con the buying public into taking a second look.

14 comments:

Pipi 19 February 2010 at 10:06  

Time travel a bit to back when you were writing about the A word. Here is another article that touched on the issue: Nazri and his logic.

Looks like your arguments and Nazri re: this issue put the 2 of you in the same class. I would hate it if someone liken me to that silly Minister in PM dept who makes the most ridiculous statements. I can never forget his stupid comment "I am his Minister" when people questioned how come he is making statements on behalf of Shit Justice Fairuz. Want to continue to be in the same class as silly Nazri?

sakmongkol AK47 19 February 2010 at 10:45  

pipi
u r entitled to your opinions. why dont you put up an article so that all of us can debate.
i have written many articles on the Allah issue giving my reasons. and i dont give a damn about what the UMNO leaders wrote about the same.
and i certainly dont care a tinker's cuss about what Nazri said.
i am not about to change them because you think yr arguments are right.

dua sen,  19 February 2010 at 11:32  

HE Sakmongkol,

My reply to Pipi is "truth hurts" !

Keep up the voice of conscience. Indeed, internet (aka 4.1th estate) has given the rakyats the otherside of opinion. Otherwise, how can Malaysiakini survive ?

Anonymous,  19 February 2010 at 11:45  

Dear Dato Sak

The truth of the matter is every institution or corporation is politicised. It must serve the agenda of its masters. Unfortunately the present master or UMNO is undead, a zombie which which refuses to recognise its true status. As long as it keeps pushing an agenda which is offesive to a normal human being, tainted because its seeks to protect its ill-gotten gains, ordinary citizens will continue to silently revolt. If a child continues to revolt against the parent, the parent must ask what they are doing wrong , not to insist the child is wrong. If the child is kept is tension as it grows, it will grow apart. There are several consequences here. One the child retains itw own mental strength and remains independent. Many are quietly in this category. Manys others will continue to revolt with opposing views while some will remain subsevervient to the parent but with mental aberrations and perhaps a bipolar personality. The latter will become a danger not only to themselves but also to society in general!

I apologise from veering away from your dreamy recollectiojs of the old days of good English and clear thinking. Even if it was a one way traffic, it was not a spin and you were free to think differently. that is the point, they made you think independently and decide for yourself. But UMNO today continues to try mind control despite overwhelming evidence the ordinary citizen wants freedom to think for themselves. And using the power of money and position is a short run gain.

Fresh Fish 19 February 2010 at 17:57  

"Umno is so rotten that even one of its most senior members, Razaleigh, has criticised the party and what it is doing to the country."

Datuk, how is it like to be a member of a rotten party?

Storm clouds over Najis

jack,  19 February 2010 at 20:22  

yes, you, as does mr MMM, do have a point.

but you have made sweeping statements about rejects in NST now, based on possibly scant intimacy of the NST or what Mr MMM has written.

the two people who re-joined NST are dato ahmad talib and nuraina a samad.

dato ahmad was general manager of special projects (I think) at the time of leaving NST and nuraina was political editor and then deputy chief news editor when she left (after 27 or so years).

they left NST not because they were booted out.

are they the rejects to you meant?

Anonymous,  19 February 2010 at 21:46  

Consider these facts about newspaper biz:
1. NST 2% of readership with Star still leading with @9%

2. Traditional papers are losing out to on-line news.

3. Negative perception about NST news reporting.

4. Majority of newspaper revenue for Media Prima comes from Harian Metro

I wonder what billionaires like AK, Robert Kouk,Syed Mokhtar AlBukhari or media savvy personality such as Tony Fernendes would do first to revive NST if they own this biz? First of all would they put they money in NST. My gut feeling say no, but again I am no billionaire.

Bleacher

Anonymous,  20 February 2010 at 15:42  

Question: What do you call this NST?

Answer: wastepaper, like theStar, MMail, Utusan Malaysia, Berita Harian.

Anonymous,  20 February 2010 at 20:48  

dato'

i yearn for the days of tun hussien. if only we can go back to those days where there is so much less bigotry and corruption.

today, BN is a totally different animal. arrogance and corruption abound.

msleepyhead,  20 February 2010 at 21:59  

Dato' Sak,

David Cameron: The next age of government

http://www.ted.com/talks/david_cameron.html

The crime map is particularly interesting.

Pak Zawi 21 February 2010 at 07:19  

Dato' Sak,
Yes I remember my secondary school days of my when I would cut out the editorials for later references. Nowadays I will not bother to buy the papers except for the Tuesday's issues when they have the Travel Times which I love to read.
In their heydays, NST's circulation was around 560,000 a day. I doubt that they are selling half that number nowadays.

Anonymous,  21 February 2010 at 14:43  

Mr Sak,i think NST/Umno have done an excellent job. i've been reading NST for as long as I can remember. look at what have become of me, always unable to articulate with sound arguments with my opposing friends. during these arguments i will always argue based on contents from NST as my substance and always ending a loser in the end.

walla 21 February 2010 at 18:42  

When readership drops, ad spends equal income will also drop which means the better journalists will also leave. The quality of the articles will then fall which means readership will shrink further. It's a spiraling vicious cycle. Like our economic competitiveness.

The NST used to be a good paper. Now one only vaguely recalls its MM's column called Johan's bag of marbles.

The bromide is not the editorials. It's the interviews of politicians and govt officials as well as the special reports. Too often the answers and investigations are just polemics. Journalists should probe for hard answers and real facts.

When we compare content of the main and alternative media, the differences are jarring.

Alternative media talk about critical issues because, left unresolved, such issues hit the foundations and erode the future which has already arrived.

Furthermore, push has given way to pull.

MSM works by push. Messages are pushed down to the reader. There is no interactivity to reach an equilibrium point of view that hooks facts and rationalizes perception. When government is perceived as standard changed to no-standard, this situation gets aggravated.

The alternative media are forums. People articulate their points of view and others argue them, enriching perspective and clarifying situations to draw more balanced conclusions.

Take the caning matter. We are told the founding fathers said this is a secular state. So the caning must be happening under its subset. Which constitutional extension allows for it without inviting contradiction between its own clauses? Secondly, women get caned but what about the men, and more importantly what about the men in high circles which have done so, and even more importantly, what about the men before the laws were enacted centuries ago? Thirdly, wouldn't it be healthier to educate on birth control if there is a social malaise resulting from moral misbehavior? Fourthly, which set of credentials operate moral order and how were they concluded to be authoritative?

walla 21 February 2010 at 18:42  

The MSM will not debate these. And that's where the difference lies with the alternative media in essence. It's all about justice.

The notion of justice finds root and growth in the alternative media simply because the readers, authors, commentators and bloggers are socially-conscious, concerned and communicative citizens. They care about important issues. They can see how government has been unequal to its job. They see injustice, oversight, stupidity, greed and callousness.

As an example, the issue of caning women is a subset of the issue of treatment of women. Can we say with confidence that women in this country are treated right? It's horrific enough to daily read of them being murdered, comatized, acidified, raped, abused, victimized, neglected, subjugated and trafficked. Now if we put this caning in context, the conclusion is that moral laws are gender-specific and women are getting a bad deal just because they happen to be born with xy chromosomes. Which MSM will write like this? None, one no longer suspects. So how does one then get the dignity of women up? Not in this country, one also laments.

Will the MSM also talk about the relevance of things like 1Malaysia as applied to women? 1Malaysia shouldn't be just about interracial and interfaith relationships. It's also about real people relationships.

That's just one of thousands of examples one can think of.

Meanwhile, the Pandamaran get-together. You sense something is wrong when a govt has to say that it can be a better govt. After half a century it has to start all over again? And when a minister says the rakyat are returning to its fold, would any MSM ask him whether he's using the same tongue as he had used telling the rakyat that the Umno candidate was ok - before that Permatang Pasir by-election - knowing full well he wasn't?

The rakyat can connect all the dots. The template is the alternative media. The govt is still disconnected. They have run out of road.

This post, for the smartest young malay girl out there.

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