SAD, but inevitable. With poor cash flow and declining sales,Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo! folded under such mounting pressure.
Both papers saw their last edition in the news stands last Wednesday.
Employees were clueless, left to fend for themselves. Information was scarce, but speculation was aplenty.
There were streams of tears as staff packed their personal belongings and took them home.
The company had appointed a liquidator to manage the company’s assets and liabilities. Once a liquidator is in, everything will be under his control.
It is sad that the group’s management had left the employees in a lurch. The least the management could have done was to face the employees and share information.
The staff have a right to know. Come on! It’s basic human courtesy to tell the staff that they are no longer employed and that they have to find work elsewhere.
The employees knew their fate from a notice board; cold and impersonal.
Credit to the staff for not turning violent when they found out that they had to take home their belongings and not step into the company’s premises again.
I won’t go deep into the reasons why a one time high-circulating newspaper like the Utusan Malaysia ended up the way it did. We all know the reasons. We all know that the reason is not entirely commercial. We can argue about this forever, but this won’t help feed the employees who are now jobless.
Kosmo!,the other newspaper in the Utusan group, came much later. It was doing well, too, helmed by experienced journalists and gradually grew and gained some acceptance among the Bahasa Malaysia-reading public.
It’s never easy to sell intellectual content. A newspaper is all about intellectual content. If the content is good, consumers will buy it. And read it.
Traditionally, and basically, a newspaper survives on a 60:40 formula — 60 per cent advertisement and 40 per cent news.
Print journalism is being tested to the limit today. Multiple platforms seem to be the way forward, with emphasis on impartiality, speed and accuracy.
Reading is no longer a daily culture of the masses, and this poses a challenge to the media industry.
More importantly, this lack of a reading culture can adversely affect the nation’s long-term wellbeing.
Utusan Malaysia, more than Kosmo!, had chronicled the nation’s history.
Led by some of the top names in Malaysian journalism, Utusan’s demise is tragic indeed. The blame game will continue forever.
Some journalists and editors had left earlier, some on their own and others took the early retirement option via the Voluntary Separation Scheme (VSS).
Even the VSS retirees have not been fully compensated.
Defending and promoting good journalism is not cheap. Killing it is easy. It is hoped that the new owners of Utusan and Kosmo! would resume publishing the newspapers.
They can publish both or one. But they need a new business model with a strong foundation grounded on serious, balanced and ethical journalism.
Would the staff who are now jobless be re-engaged? That’s hard to say.
Newspaper publishing requires deep pockets, enduring professionalism and bags of passion. Those involve must eat, pray, love journalism. Nothing more, nothing less.
Some may argue that the journalism at Jalan Chan Sow Lin died some years ago.
Along with it came the rejection by advertisers who saw that a one-sided newspaper may not be the best platform to promote their products and services.
The closure of the two newspapers is a lesson for all media organisations and business houses.
It is a simple reminder that there is no compromise for quality products and services.
Consumers are increasingly discerning and demanding. I’m sure those in the media fraternity realise this.
For the time being, Utusan Malaysia and Kosmo!, like Manchester United, whose track record and history are well documented and much loved, will retreat into the backwaters to lick their wounds and wounded pride.
We must wish them well.
the writer is a former NST group editor. His first column appeared on Aug 27, 1995, as ‘Kurang Manis’