KUALA LUMPUR: A show of hands at yesterday’s forum, “Survival of Print Media: Why Go Soft When You Can Go Hard?” at Intekma Resort and Convention Centre in Shah Alam saw only a few among the audience admitting that they read newspapers.
The forum’s panellist, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin, the media and communications adviser to the prime minister and former New Straits Times Press group editor-in-chief said: “If this is the group that supports print journalism, it is already dead.
“The young say that we can’t be nostalgic. I am nostalgic. I read at least three to four newspapers a day. I read newspapers not because I don’t have information. It’s the same as hugging my wife of more than 40 years. It is a routine. You don’t have the habit of reading newspapers.
“The attitude that I see today has changed what I was about to say. I thought there was a future for the print media, but looking at this group of journalism students who don’t read newspapers, I’m wondering what am I doing here? I’m old and will be dead soon. Think of your future. You may be wasting your time.
“There is no money in the current media arrangement or in online journalism. Maybe we have to depend on membawang (gossiping) for our future news.”
“If you want newspapers to thrive, share among yourselves and buy newspapers you can read and understand. Be the person giving the input to the newspapers, which are trying to improve.
“But if you are not interested, how are we going to ensure the survival of newspapers? I fear that the ‘rescue’ of newspaper companies may not bring about the desired changes.
“You don’t have to pretend about maruah (pride), survival, Bahasa Melayu and Malay journalism if you don’t even read newspapers. Newspapers will die because of you.”
He said newspapers were superior when it came to content.
“In terms of content, nothing can beat newspapers. The real quality of content is in the printed form.”
He said the habit of reporting via smartphones had affected the dissemination of “real news”.
“You should not be journalists and editors just because you have a smartphone in hand. If that was the case, we might as well close the journalism course tomorrow.”
He said it puzzled him when journalists and editors took news content from social media.
“You may have five editors, but I see mainstream media quoting from social media. Social media is for you to socialise. Even when you share genuine news, it is for socialising. Print news is reliable and can counter fake news because of the layers of editing. It is not as simple as a makcik passing messages in a WhatsApp group.”
He said the quality of reporting had declined over the years in terms of language style, be it in English or Bahasa Melayu.
“Malaysians are not good at conversing well in both languages. We have to bring back the culture of reading. These days, households don’t subscribe to newspapers. Parents must start by giving kids food for the brain.
“Books are important. Print media must survive. Things that are archived are important.
“For me, there is no replacement for newspapers. I want to die leaving a successful and vibrant print media in Malaysia.”
Umno Youth vice-chief Shahril Sufian Hamdan said content was paramount and that people would pay for good content.
“If editorial content is not the voice of the people, if it promotes agendas, no one will read it, (whether) print or online.”